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  • People gather near stalls with used tools on a street in Hodeidah, Yemen, Dec. 15.

    People gather near stalls with used tools on a street in Hodeidah, Yemen, Dec. 15. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 December 2018
Opinion

Clashes have been ongoing in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah in recent days just before the ceasefire took effect.

A calm descended on the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, late night, just hours after a U.N.-negotiated ceasefire took effect Tuesday.

RELATED: 
Yemen: Clashes in Hodeidah Continue as Ceasefire Set to Start

However, it may still be too early to tell if the ceasefire will hold, as this could resemble the usual pattern of fighting. Residents said day-to-day fighting is often intense in the evenings and night-time, before halting around sunrise, the Middle East Eye reported.

"There has been complete calm since 03:00 am Yemen time (1200 GMT) in the city of Hodeidah," a military source loyal to the Saudi-backed government told AFP Tuesday.

The Houthis and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi agreed Thursday to cease fighting and withdraw troops in the city by the Red Sea. The decision came after a week of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, Sweden.

"Ceasefires in a long messy war are always shaky but I think the one in Hodeidah stands a better chance than most," author and award-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn told teleSUR, adding, "This would not have happened without Saudi agreement." 

The Saudis, he noted, have been under intense pressure since the brutal murder of  Khashoggi affair which lead to an international condemnation of the Crown Prince and demands from United States representatives for a cease of U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's war effort in Yemen. 

The challenge greatly rests in securing a methodical troop withdrawal from Hodeidah amid mistrust from both sides. The port has been a lifeline for millions of Yemenis who have been struggling against starvation.

"The forces have yet to disengage and when they are close up to each other of course they are liable to respond to any what they see as provocation or alert," U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths told BBC Radio 4 Tuesday. "So we can expect some of this happening, but the pattern at the moment is a positive one."

"First time skies have been quiet over Hodeidah for many, many months. So far, so good. Fingers crossed."

The Yemen war started in 2015 when the Saudi-UAE led coalition started fighting the Houthi rebels after they took over the capital city of Sanaa, toppling the Saudi-backed government of Hadi.

The war has killed more than 56,000 people according to a study by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

A recent resolution passed by the United States Senate called for an end to U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia for the Yemen war.

The war has revived old tensions between northern and southern Yemen, which were formerly two separate countries before converging into a single state in 1990 under former President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who was assassinated in 2017.

The conflict has been widely portrayed as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, after Riyadh formed a coalition in March 2015 with 12 other regional allies and intervened in Yemen with troops on the ground and daily airstrikes to back Hadi’s government forces after the Houthi movement seized control of the capital, Sanaa a few months earlier.

Saudi Arabia and its allies claim that Houthis are backed by Iran in an effort to expand its control over the region, claims that have been rejected by both Tehran and the Houthis, who argue that the aim is to regain sovereignty over their country and eliminate Saudi influence over their domestic affairs.

Both sides are expected to hold another round of peace talks in January in order to come to an agreement on the political framework for negotiations that could end the four-year war which has killed tens of thousands of people and sparked an urgent humanitarian crisis.

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