Saudi-led Coalition Halts Hodeidah Offensive as Countries Push for Peace Negotiations
Yemen's Hodeida is the scene for fierce clashes between Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels (Representational Image/ Photo: SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images)

In what is a massive relief to Yemenis, the Saudi-led coalition has ordered a halt to the offensive on the country’s port city of Hodeidah. A report by Reuters news agency said, “the coalition has instructed forces on the ground to halt fighting inside Hodeidah."

This new order comes after the Saudi-led alliance had brought in fresh forces from Sudan and launched a ground and air assault against Houthi rebels housed inside Hodeidah. A report published a fortnight ago had estimated that up to 10,000 soldiers had been brought into Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels. The coalition had also carried out more than 200 air raids in the last two weeks.

Fighting in the port city has claimed hundreds of lives and there is no accurate way to assess the numbers of those killed. AFP news agency puts the death toll estimate at 600.

But the halt in fighting comes as the largest coalition partner, Saudi Arabia is facing international pressure to stop the offensive and begin peace talks. Riyadh’s main ally in the west, the U.S. too has called for an end to fighting. European countries like UK, Germany have also put a halt to weapons sale to Saudi Arabia to force it to come to the negotiating table.

The UAE which forms part of the Saudi effort said it was looking forward to the peace talks. UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the Emirates supported UN plans to hold peace talks in Sweden by the end of the year.

"We welcome early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden," Gargash, tweeted. He said the coalition would "urge all parties to take advantage of [the] window of opportunity to restart the political process" at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday.

However, it is too soon to be optimistic with the cessation of hostilities. Yemen's exiled president released a statement saying he backed UN-proposed talks to end the fighting but vowed to "liberate" Hodeidah regardless of the peace process.

A spokesman for the president said via the official Saba news agency that Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi "has issued directives to back all efforts that guarantee the interests of Yemen in reaching sustainable peace" based on UN resolutions.

"The battle of the Yemeni people to liberate Hodeidah is inevitable, whether through peace or war," the statement said

Hodeidah is crucial as it is the last remaining strong hold for Houthi rebels and it also serves as the entry way for goods such as food and medicine into Yemen’s southern areas.