Houthi rebel leader Abdulmalik al Houthi says his fighters won't surrender but appears to acknowledge his forces had lost ground in a battle against Saudi-backed pro-government forces for the port city of Hudaida.
Yemen's rebel chief vowed on Wednesday never to surrender to Saudi-backed pro-government forces, but appeared to acknowledge his forces had lost ground in a battle for the port city of Hudaida.
"Does the enemy think that penetrating this or that area, or seizing this or that area, means we will be convinced that we should surrender and hand over control?" Abdulmalik al Houthi said in a televised address.
"This is not happening and will not happen ever."
Pro-government forces approach to port
Meanwhile, Yemeni government sources said on Wednesday that the Saudi-led coalition has pounded Houthi rebel positions with air strikes and a ground assault and now controls a major road leading into the key port city.
They said an Emirati-trained force known as the Giants, backed by Apache attack helicopters, secured on Wednesday an urban area along 50th Street, which leads to the city's key port facilities some five km away.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals or lack of authorisation to brief journalists, they said Houthi rebels had been firing mainly from elevated and rooftop sniper positions, and have now resorted to burning tires to obscure the gunships' view.
Most civilians have fled the area, they added.
The Saudi/UAE response to the Trump administration's call for a ceasefire has been an all-out offensive against the port through which 70 percent of Yemen's food and medicine flow...Is this the new, more restrained MBS we've been promised? https://t.co/lU41elGAH4— Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) November 6, 2018
Escalation in violence
The Houthi rebels, northern tribesmen, acknowledged incursions by the Saudi-led coalition and accused pro-government forces of provoking an escalation in violence.
"The enemy benefits from its numbers, which it has increased even further to pressure the city of Hudaida," the Houthi chief said.
Nearly 200 combatants have been killed over the past week in the fight for Hudaida, which the rebels seized along with the capital in 2014.
International aid groups on Wednesday appealed for safe passage for civilians as the clashes approach hospitals in the city.
The Saudi-led alliance had suspended an offensive to take Hudaida in August, ahead of UN efforts to hold negotiations in Geneva, which collapsed the following month.
The Houthis refused to travel to Switzerland unless the UN guaranteed both their delegation's safe return to Sanaa and the evacuation of wounded fighters.
The rebels have regularly targeted Saudi Arabian border towns as well as the capital Riyadh with ballistic missiles.
Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran of using Hudaida port to smuggle missiles to the Houthis, a charge Tehran denies.
I've been thinking a lot about the humanitarian situation in #Yemen recently. There is a fair chance that famine will be declared there soon. People will respond with shock and surprise. But people need to know that this was absolutely predictable and preventable.— Peter Salisbury (@peterjsalisbury) November 6, 2018
Yemen, a 'living hell' for children
Saudi Arabia has faced virulent international criticism for leading an intervention in Yemen in 2015 to bolster Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government in the face of the Houthi insurgency, and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder has put its bombing campaign under fresh scrutiny.
The World Health Organization estimates nearly 10,000 people have been killed since then, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.
About 14 million people now stand at the brink of famine in Yemen, which the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis and "a living hell" for children.