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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Yemen pro-government forces cut major Houthi supply route  

The capture of the road near Hodeidah comes as the coalition increases military pressure on the port city
Yemeni government forces and vehicles take part in military operations on Houthi positions in the port province of Hodeidah. EPA

Yemen's pro-government Al Amalikah brigades on Wednesday retook the stretch of road between Kilo 16 and Kilo 10 near Hodeidah, cutting off a major Houthi supply route that runs from the port city to other rebel-held areas.

The road was also a link to Ibb, Taez and Aden to the south.

Al Amalikah soldiers are now expected to push into the city towards the Corniche and university, a military source told The National.

Also on Wednesday, pro-government groups seized the Nana juice factory and the Al Jeel Al Jadeed school – both used by the Houthis as bases and weapons and ammunition caches.

We are concerned with "civilian lives, since some civilians, especially those coming from Ibb province and Sanaa, still come across the intersection in Kilo 16 despite our continuous warnings," the director of Al Amalikah brigade's media centre, Aseel Al Sakladi said.

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Civilians in eastern Hodeidah said Houthi rebels on Tuesday shelled homes and farms between Kilo 10 and Kilo 16. Seven farmers were killed as well as hundreds of cows and goats, residents told The National.

East of Hodeidah city, in Al Marawyah, reports emerged of young men being forced by Houthi fighters to take up arms, an activist in Yemen told The National.

"On Monday the Houthis stormed the residence of a citizen called Faris Al Askari [because] he rejected to send his young sons to fight with them," activist Sami Bari said. "They took him along with his two young sons to prison."

According to Mr Bari, Houthi rebels have also used civilians as human shields.

"They have erected anti-aircraft weapons on the roof of a primary school which forced all the students who were inaugurating the start of the new year to flee the school," Sami Bari said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Arab coalition air strikes targeted Houthi bases and hideouts, including a former Republican Guard base.

As the battle for Hodeidah proceeds, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said on Wednesday that liberating the port city from Houthi control would ensure an end to rebel aggression.

"The Houthi no-show at the Geneva peace process is further proof that the liberation of Hodeidah is what is needed to bring them to their senses and constructively engage in the political process," Dr Gargash tweeted.

Colonel Turki Al Malki, spokesman for the Arab coalition, said on Tuesday it had offered assistance to the rebel delegation's trip to Geneva, where the peace talks were to take place.

But after much speculation, the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, announced the rebels would not attend the peace talks, dashing hopes of a successful meeting between the warring factions.

But he said he would return to the region. Mr Griffiths told the United Nations Security Council he will visit Sanaa, Muscat and Riyadh to discuss the stalemate.

The visit, he said, will promote confidence-building measures including a prisoner exchange, the opening of Sanaa airport and, on the political side, "secure a firm commitment from the parties to convene for continued consultations".

Several Houthi political leaders live in Muscat, including Mohamed Abdel Salam, who Mr Griffiths met last May.

Despite the failure of the Geneva talks, the UN envoy refused to give up on the political process. He thanked members of the Yemeni government for their "constructive participation" and voiced disappointment about the Houthis’ absence.

"When I called for the Intra-Yemeni Consultations in Geneva, I never expected it to be an easy mission," he told the council.

He warned that "the war has been escalating across all fronts … and humanitarian cost is ever-rising".

Mr Griffiths also said he is "planning to consult very soon with a number of southern [Yemeni] stakeholders to agree on their meaningful participation in the process".

Those comments relate to Yemen's Southern Transitional Council, an umbrella body that runs much of the south and eastern territory that has been wrested from control of the Houthis and extremists.

The STC was angered by being excluded from last week's talks and, as a result, said it would not be "bound by any consultations or negotiations that the STC is not a part of".

The STC commands the loyalties of five regional governors, including Hadramawt's Farraj Al Bahsani.