Yemen govt forces halt Hodeida offensive: Commanders

Residents reported Tuesday that the fighting had slowed overnight, and rebel media - which regularly claims attacks on loyalists - did not report any new fighting.

After a night of air strikes on Yemen's Hodeidah, calm descended to allow hungry families to stock up on food in the Houthi-held Red Sea port city on Tuesday.

Hodeidah is an entry point for 80 percent of the impoverished country's food imports and relief supplies. Military sources confirmed that the Saudi-led alliance had targeted the rebels with multiple air strikes.

A military source in the pro-government coalition said the insurgents had pushed back a large-scale assault aimed at moving towards the port, under rebel control since 2014.

Aid groups fear for the safety of almost 600,000 people living in Hodeidah - and for millions of others dependent on its port for what little food and humanitarian aid trickling into blockaded Yemen.

The short lull coincided with a visit by British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt to Saudi Arabia to press for an end to the almost four-year war that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Griffiths has said he hopes to host talks by the end of the year.

Almost 600 people have been killed since clashes erupted in Hodeida on November 1, ending a temporary suspension in a government offensive to take the city that began in June.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last Friday that Washington would support the Saudi decision to use the Saudi-led coalition's own capabilities to conduct inflight refueling missions in Yemen, indicating that the U.S. side would stop refueling the coalition aircraft.

Hunt said diplomacy remains the only way to end the conflict, which he called the world's worse humanitarian crisis.

The coalition has come under intense worldwide pressure to end the conflict in Yemen, particularly following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The United Nations' Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, is pushing for peace talks between the Houthis and the government by the end of the year.

Critics of the Saudi campaign have always been questioning USA involvement in the war, in which more than 10,000 people have been killed, over 2 million displaced and has spread starvation in Yemen since it began in 2015. The Houthis, who had in the past rejected the proposal, said the coalition accepted the truce because of its heavy casualties and because it came under global pressure to spare some 500,000 civilians inside the city the death and destruction that come with street-to-street fighting, which already began this week.

  • Rogelio Becker