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Middle East

Fighting escalates in Yemen despite calls for ceasefire

media Pro-government forces march towards Hodeida, 6 November 2018 AFP

Following calls by the US for a ceasefire between Yemen's warring factions, the fighting is as strong as ever, endangering humanitarian aid and putting lives of children at risk.

Listen to RFI's report on the fighting in Hodeida, Yemen 07/11/2018 Listen

The forgotten war, that is what many call the conflict in Yemen.

In 2015 Yemen's neighbour Saudi Arabia led a Western-backed coalition against Huthi rebels, who were are backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival.

Since then Yemen has been divided in two.

Pro-government forces control the south and most of central Yemen, while Huthi rebels control the North, most of the West, and Yemen's capital Sanaa.

Pro-government loyalists at Aden, Yemen, 29 October 2018. Saleh Al-OBEIDI / AFP

Fighting escalates after US calls for ceasefire

The escalation in fighting happened last week, despite the US call for a ceasefire and peace talks in November.

Nearly 200 fighters from both sides died last week in intense fighting around Hodeida.

"Over the past few days, we've seen an upscale in fighting in and around Hodeida", Adam Baron, a fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations who was in the city three weeks ago, told RFI.

"It is one thing to call for a ceasefire and another thing for it to happen."

"It will require a lot of trust-building. To go from where we are now to a real decrease in violence, there is a lot of work to be done".

Ghazi Ali bin Ali, a yemenite boy suffering from severe malnutrition in the city of Taiz, Yemen. Ahmad AL-BASHA / AFP

Civil society stifled as children suffer

Nearly two-thirds of Yemen's imports, including humanitarian aid, enter through Hodeida's port.

The UN has warned that half of Yemen's population risks falling into famine if the current situation continues.

According to the UN children's fund, Unicef, 59 children are in imminent danger at Hodeida's Al Thawra hospital, near where the current bombings are taking place.

Al Thawra is the only hospital accessible in the sector and access to it is now dangerous, according to NGO Save the Children

Doctor Mariam Aldogani, a doctor who was in the Al Thawra hospital on Wednesday, told RFI that that one child died from shrapnel from the intense shelling and another was paralysed.

The Yemeni riyal has fallen nearly 40 per cent this year, causing a steep rise in prices. Civilians protest in Taiz, 4 October 2018. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub

As a mother and a doctor, she appealed to the two factions to stop fighting and sit down for talks.

"The city has become unsafe. I'm a mother, and I cannot allow my children out on the streets any more. I just keep them at home," she said.

International groups have appealed to both sides to allow civilians to escape and to create a safe passage for humanitarian aid.

But Yemen's rebel chief said on Wednesday that they would not surrender to the the pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia.

So the fighting seems likely to carry on and the fate of humanitarian aid is uncertain.

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