Airstrikes resume in Yemen after brief lull raised peace hopes

Intense fighting broke out in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah late on Monday, shattering a lull in violence that had raised hopes for a ceasefire between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi insurgents as the United Nations tried to resume peace talks.

Escalating attacks may derail renewed UN attempts to broker ceasefire

A Shia Houthi militant stands guard at the site of a rally attended by fellow Houthis to mark the day of Ashura and the 4th anniversary of their takeover of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sept. 20. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Intense fighting broke out in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah late on Monday, shattering a lull in violence that had raised hopes for a ceasefire between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi insurgents as the United Nations tried to resume peace talks.

Coalition warplanes conducted more than 10 airstrikes on Houthi positions, and battles could be heard in the "July 7" district, four kilometres away from the port, residents said. One resident said a medium-range missile had been fired from the city centre toward the suburban district.

The Saudi-led coalition had last week ordered a halt in its offensive against Hodeidah, a Houthi-held Red Sea port city and now a focus of the war, amid pressure from the West to end a conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi group announced early on Monday it was halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the​ United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies, in one of its biggest concessions since it quit the southern port city of Aden in 2015.

The Houthi movement also said it was ready for a broader ceasefire if the coalition "wants peace."

Moammar al-Eryani, the Yemeni information minister, said Monday the​ Houthis had "fired a missile towards Saudi lands," adding on his Twitter account the missile failed to reach its target and fell inside Yemen. Houthi authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

Derailed peace efforts?

It was not immediately clear whether the renewed fighting in​ Hodeidah would derail efforts by UN special envoy Martin​ Griffiths to salvage peace talks that collapsed in September when the Houthi delegation failed to show up.

"The fighting is escalating, and we can clearly hear machine guns and mortar fire. This is one of the worst nights we have experienced," said Hodeidah resident Mustafa Abdo.

When asked about the fighting, a pro-coalition Yemeni military source told Reuters late on Monday that a ceasefire in​ Hodeidah would only start after the UN Security Council passes a British-drafted resolution on Yemen.

Yemenis attend the funeral of victims of a Saudi-led airstrike in Saada, Yemen, on Aug. 13. (Hani Mohammed/Associated Press)

It is not immediately clear when the text, submitted to the body on Monday, could be put to a vote.

Kuwait's UN Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters he would propose amendments to the draft resolution as Kuwait was unhappy with "many things." He also said some council members didn't think it was the right time for a resolution.

Britain's draft text, viewed by Reuters, calls for a halt to fighting in the western coastal city of Hodeidah, a stop to attacks on populated areas across Yemen and an end to attacks on countries in the region. It also calls for an unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian goods across Yemen.

'We are all tired of this war'

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Monday reiterated the kingdom's support for UN efforts to end the war. The Riyadh-backed Yemen government also announced its willingness to take part in the next round of consultations.

Yemenis had cautiously welcomed the ceasefire announcement on Monday.

"We pray that this will be the real beginning of peace in Yemen. We are all tired of this war," said Mona Ibrahim, a teacher in the capital, Sanaa, which has been under Houthi control since September 2014.

"We just want to live like other humans," said Mohammed al-Ahdal, a resident of Hodeidah.

Western allies including the United States have called for a ceasefire ahead of peace efforts to end the nearly four-year- old war — widely viewed as a proxy war between Riyadh and Iran — that has killed over 10,000 people and caused the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.

Western countries have provided arms and intelligence to states in the coalition, but have shown increasing reservations about the war since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul last month.

Griffiths said Friday that Yemen's parties have given "firm assurances" they are committed to attending peace talks he hopes to convene in Sweden before the end of the year to agree on a framework for peace under a transitional government.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press