Yemen rebels mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy visit
SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni rebels have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeida, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.
Dozens of Huthi rebels put on a show of strength on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa on Saturday, November 17 apparently getting ready to head towards Hodeida, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.
Residents told AFP by telephone on Sunday, November 18 that relative calm had held in Hodeida city since pro-government forces – backed by a Saudi-led military coalition – announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a ceasefire and UN-led peace efforts.
UN special envoy Martin Griffiths – whose efforts at kick-starting peace talks collapsed in September – said on Friday that he plans to travel to rebel-held Sanaa next week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.
Hameed Assem, a member of the rebel delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Huthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.
"We are ready for dialogue at any time when there is real dialogue that leads to peace," he told AFP.
"If Griffiths comes, we are ready for dialogue. If he doesn't come, we are ready to fight until (our) last breath."
Diplomatic efforts to end the war intensified last week after clashes escalated in Hodeida, whose port serves as an entry point for nearly all of the country's commercial imports and humanitarian aid.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned the destruction of the Hodeida port could trigger a "catastrophic" situation in a country where 14 million people are at risk of starvation.
Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive on the rebel-held city amid an international outcry, but the Huthis are skeptical about the move.
"The so-called truce is just a maneuvre," Shamsan Abu Nashtan, a rebel fighter, told AFP.
"The (Huthis) confirm they are ready to mobilize to the battlefronts."
The rebels seized the capital Sanaa and Hodeida in 2014, prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to intervene on the government's side the following year.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since then, according to the World Health Organization.
Rights groups believe the toll may be five times as high. – Rappler.com