Yemen's Houthis deploy additional forces to Hodeida amid offensive
Yemen's Houthi rebels have deployed additional forces to the flash-point port city of Hodeida amid a wide-scale offensive by UAE-led Yemeni government forces to retake the city, Reuters reported.
Hodeida residents told the news agency on Sunday that Houthi fighters have been heavily deployed to the city, where they have set up new checkpoints.
UAE-backed government forces launched their offensive against Hodeida on June 13 and on Wednesday overran its disused airport after deadly fighting with the rebel garrison.
On Saturday, the airport continued to come under mortar fire from adjacent rebel-held neighbourhoods in the south of the city. Government forces responded against the source of the fire.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths, who held abortive talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa last weekend, was continuing "consultations with all sides to avoid a military confrontation in Hodeida and return rapidly to the negotiating table," his office said.
The rebels have said they are willing to share control of Hodeida's port with the United Nations but have vowed that their forces will remain in the docks and in the rest of the Red Sea city.
The Saudi-led coalition alleges that the port has been used by the rebels as an entry point for weapons smuggled from its arch-foe Iran.
The UAE said on Saturday that it was ready to support diplomatic efforts to secure a rebel withdrawal.
But it said the pullout must be unconditional and from the whole city not just its vital docks, the entry point for three-quarters of Yemen's imports.