A nascent truce in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah was dealt a fresh blow over the weekend as Houthi rebels boycotted a UN-brokered peace talks and threatened further drone strikes against pro-government forces.
The threat came days after a Houthi drone attack on a government military parade in the southern province of Lahaj killed several people. A senior intelligence official injured in that attack died of his wounds on Sunday.
Yahya Sarea, a Houthi spokesman, called the strike a "legitimate operation against aggression.” He said Houthis were working to amass a stockpile of locally manufactured drones.
"Soon there will be enough in the strategic stockpile to launch more than one drone operation in multiple battle fronts at the same time," Sarea told reporters in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
Leaders of the Iran-backed rebel faction also refused to attend a meeting with the head of the UN ceasefire monitoring team in the strategic port of Hodeida on Sunday.
Mohammed Abdelsalam, a Houthi negotiator, said his delegation boycotted the meeting because Patrick Cammaert, the retired Dutch general who heads the monitoring team, had steered “from the course of the agreement by implementing other agendas”.
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Writing on Twitter, he appealed to Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, to deal with the issue, and warned that if left unaddressed, “it is going to be difficult to discuss any other matter”.
The diplomatic hold-up came after fighting erupted between Houthis and Saudi-backed government forces in Hodeidah on Saturday, shattering a fragile ceasefire.
The rebel-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in war after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
The sides agreed to a ceasefire for Hodeida in talks chaired by Mr Griffiths in Sweden in December.
The talks in Rimbo, Sweden, were the first face-to-face meeting between the chief belligerents in years.
Yemen has experienced a humanitarian meltdown since a Saudi-led coalition began an aerial campaign against Houthi rebels in March 2015. Around 24 million Yemenis, or 80 percent of the population, are in need of aid. As many as 85,000 children are thought to have starved to death since the war began.