The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says at least 700 people have been displaced in recent fighting, confirming civilian casualties.

A fighter is pictured as leaves home with a comrade heading to at a frontline post in the fight against Houthi fighters in Taiz, Yemen January 27, 2021.
A fighter is pictured as leaves home with a comrade heading to at a frontline post in the fight against Houthi fighters in Taiz, Yemen January 27, 2021. (Reuters)

The United Nations has warned that thousands of Yemeni civilians were at risk in the western province of Hudaida after an increase in military clashes this month.

Since 2014, Yemen has been engulfed in a war between the internationally recognised government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels that has triggered a devastating humanitarian crisis.

The latest clashes in the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hudaida - the main gateway for food, fuel, and humanitarian aid to the rest of the country - are the most violent since a truce negotiated in the area by the United Nations came into force in 2018.

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'Thousands of civilians at risk'

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Thursday that "concern is increasing" with "thousands of civilians at risk".

It added that preliminary reports showed that at least 700 people have been displaced by the recent fighting and that "there have already been civilian casualties".

At least eight civilians, mostly women, and children, were killed last week, and many houses and farms damaged, the UN said.

"Indiscriminate attacks on residential areas are a breach of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately," said Auke Lootsma, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

Two explosions rattled Hudaida city on Wednesday night, residents told AFP.

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Hundreds of soldiers killed

The Houthi have attacked to the south of the city where pro-government forces maintain positions, pro-government military sources said earlier this month.

On January 18, military sources said that some 150 Yemeni pro-government soldiers and Houthi rebels had been killed in a week of fighting.

A Yemeni military source said Thursday that fighting between the warring sides has subsided slightly since then but that "intermittent clashes" were ongoing.

"The parties must remember that they have a duty to take all necessary measures to protect civilians at all times and allow humanitarians to respond to the injured and displaced," the UN said.

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'War being fuelled by economic profiteering'

Economic profiteering is fuelling the catastrophe in Yemen, where a six-year war has involved attacks on civilians, forced disappearances, and other violations of human rights and international law, UN experts said in a new report.

The experts estimate Houthi rebels diverted at least $1.8 billion in 2019 that was supposed to go to the government to pay salaries and provide basic services to citizens. 

And they said the government implemented a scheme to illegally divert to traders $423 million of Saudi money meant to buy rice and other commodities for the Yemeni people.

The report obtained describes a deteriorating situation in Yemen, where the panel said the Houthis and the government “appear to be indifferent” to the devastating impact of the economy's downfall on its people while continuing to divert the country’s economic and financial resources.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies