UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in Paris that there is an international consensus including major regional players to end three-year-old conflict in Yemen.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hudaida as they continue to battle for the control of the city from Houthi rebels on November 10, 2018.
Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hudaida as they continue to battle for the control of the city from Houthi rebels on November 10, 2018. (AFP)

At least 150 people have been killed in 24 hours of clashes in Yemen's Hudaida, medics and military sources said on Monday, as international pressure mounted for a ceasefire in the vital port city.

Government loyalists supported by a Saudi-led coalition are fighting to oust the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from the Red Sea city. 

The United Nations and aid groups have warned that the full-scale assault on Hudaida, an entry point for 80 percent of the country's food imports and relief supplies, could trigger a famine in the already impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.

Consensus on ending Yemen conflict

French President Emmanuel Macron met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday in Paris, following a commemoration ceremony of the armistice that ended World War One.

During a lunch attended by world leaders including US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Elysee Palace after the commemoration, one of the subjects discussed was the three-year-old conflict in Yemen, the local media reported.

Guterres said he believed there was a consensus including with the US, Russia and Europe as well as major regional players, that the moment has come to end the conflict and avoid a worsening of the humanitarian crisis.

"I think that now, all the powers agree that it must be ended. I think that circumstances will allow it. I hope that the direct actors in the conflict can understand it, and I hope that it happens as quickly as possible, because if for example the port of Hudaida is destroyed, that would create an absolutely catastrophic situation," Guterres said. 

The WFP said last week it plans to double its food assistance programme for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14 million people "to avert mass starvation".

The United Nations has no up-to-date estimate of the death toll in Yemen. It said in August 2016 that according to medical centres at least 10,000 people had been killed.

Large-scale assault repelled 

A source in the pro-government coalition said the rebels had pushed back a large-scale assault aimed at moving towards the port.

Government forces, led on the ground by Emirati-backed troops, have made their way into Hudaida after 11 days of clashes, reaching residential neighbourhoods in the east on Sunday and sparking fears of street fights that would further endanger civilians trapped in the city.

Residents and government military sources have reported rebel snipers stationed on rooftops in civilian streets in eastern Hudaida, a few kilometres (miles) from the port on the western edge of the city.

Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children's field coordinator in Yemen, said that the people in Hudaida are living in a "state of fear".

"There is ongoing fighting, and the situation is very bad," she said over the weekend by phone, as strikes were heard in the background.

The Hudaida offensive has sparked international outcry unprecedented in nearly four years of conflict between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday urged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a major ally of Washington, to engage in peace talks.

'Incalculable human cost' 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday, where he will press King Salman and Prince Mohammed to support UN efforts to end the conflict, the Foreign Office said.

Both the United States and Britain are major suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Hunt will also meet senior officials from Yemen and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, a key pillar of the Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government.

"The human cost of war in Yemen is incalculable," Hunt said ahead of his trip. "The only solution is now a political decision to set aside arms and pursue peace."

Aid groups fear for the safety of nearly 600,000 people living in Hudaida — and for millions of others dependent on its port for what little food and humanitarian aid trickle into impoverished, blockaded Yemen.

A military official in Hudaida on Monday confirmed seven civilians had died, without giving further details.

Medics in hospitals across Hudaida province reported 111 rebels and 32 loyalist fighters killed overnight, according to a tally.

Sources at the Al-Alfi military hospital, seized by the rebels during their 2014 takeover, said charred body parts had been delivered there overnight. Military sources confirmed that the Saudi-led alliance had targeted the rebels with multiple air strikes.

The rebels have begun to evacuate their wounded to Sanaa, the capital, which the Houthis seized during a 2014 takeover that included a string of ports on Yemen's coastline.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the Yemeni government's fight against the Houthis in 2015, triggering what the UN now calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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

International pressure 

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

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist killed in his country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, was an ardent critic of Prince Mohammed, who has spearheaded the kingdom's controversial role in the Yemen war.

Multiple countries, including Germany and Norway, have announced the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi's killing.

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

The United States, which for years provided military training and aerial refuelling for the Saudi-led coalition, on Saturday announced it would end its inflight refuelling support for the alliance.

The coalition has been blacklisted by the United Nations for the killing and maiming of children, particularly in air raids on rebel-held territory.

The alliance accuses Iran of smuggling arms to the Houthis through Hodeida port. Tehran denies the charges.

The World Health Organization estimates nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015. But rights groups believe the toll may be five times as high.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies