The fighting in the strategic city of Hodeida in western Yemen was particularly lethal on Friday, with strong resistance from the Houthi rebels who tried by every means to slow down the pro-government forces.
As the entry point for three quarters of imports and international aid into a country threatened by famine, the port city of Hodeida has been under rebel control since 2014.
Forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, supported militarily by the Saudi Arabian and Arabian allies, have tried to claim him since June.
For the first time, Thursday, loyalist troops, supported by Saudi air raids, entered the city where they advanced a few kilometers from the south and east to the port.
In response, the Houthi rebels, whose leader had promised that his men would fight to the end, intensified their counterattacks to slow their progress.
"They execute intense attacks" by firing projectiles at positions taken by loyalist troops in the south of the city, according to pro-government military officials.
The rebels also said they managed to cut their opponents' supply routes in four areas of the Hodeida province, outside the city. But this was not confirmed by pro-government officials.
The Houthi have dug trenches and laid mines on roads on the outskirts of the city, according to loyalist sources. They also placed snipers on the roofs and behind the large billboards.
– Risk of "sabotage" –
Despite the resistance of the rebels, loyalist forces managed to proceed again, but very slowly in the eastern part of the city, officials said.
Barricaded behind containers full of debris, in heavily armed vehicles or sometimes even on foot, loyalists advance through the city streets with machine-gunfire and incessant explosive noises, according to an AFP correspondent. .
The fighting of the last 24 hours in Hodeida left 110 dead among the rebels, according to medical sources. A military leader of the Loyalist forces reported 22 deaths among pro-government fighters.
This new record brings to 382 the number of fighters on both sides who have been killed by the November 1 intensification of the Battle of Hodeida.
According to a report by the IHS Markit consulting firm, the attack on the port of Hodeida should start "in the coming days".
The text indicates the risk of "sabotage" of the port infrastructure by the Houthi if they were forced to withdraw.
"Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates consider it necessary to bring Hodeida (to the rebels) before starting peace talks with the Houthi, and this would allow the Yemeni government to have much more political weight at the negotiating table, IHS Markit adds. .
Since 2015, loyalist forces, with the help of a military coalition led by the Saudis, have tried to chase the Houthi supported by Iran from large areas in the north and the center of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
In almost four years, the conflict in Yemen has caused about 10,000 deaths and, according to the UN, has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The offensive on Hodeida was suspended in July to give a chance to the efforts of the UN mediator. After the failure of the UN mediation last September to find a political solution, the coalition announced the resumption of the assault on Hodeida, which intensified from November 1st.
The Battle of Hodeida threatens the peace efforts of the United States and the United Nations that hope to convene the talks "by the end of the year".
– "Exhaustion and anxiety" –
The fears of NGOs operating locally or elsewhere in the country threatened by famine also increase.
In Hodeida, the project coordinator of the NGO Islamic Relief, Salem Jaffer Baobaid, describes "the exhaustion and anxiety" on the faces of its neighbors, and the white nights of the inhabitants, studded with the attacks.
"People are asking for more food, but whatever we do, humanitarian organizations are not equipped to feed an entire nation," said the humanitarian operator, quoted by the humanitarian news agency Irin.
According to information released on Friday by the Washington Post, the United States has decided, under pressure from both Republican and Democrat MPs, to stop supplying military coalition planes under the Saudi leadership in Yemen, putting an end to their more concrete support in three years of conflict.
Asked by AFP, the US Department of Defense has not confirmed immediate information every day, citing sources close to the case.
According to the Norwegian Council for Refugees, "there is a very high risk that more air and ground attacks will stop the last supply of food, fuel and medicine for about 20 million Yemenis who depend on imports through Hodeida ".
Amnesty International condemned the coalition strikes and accused the Houthi of deploying their men on the roof of a hospital "full of injured civilians" in Hodeida.
In Istanbul, a conference under the leadership of Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkol Karman, invited the UN to "work seriously" to end the war in Yemen and supported the creation of a special court to try the "crimes" engaged during the conflict.