ADEN, Yemen- Yemeni government forces, backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), resumed military offensive, against the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. The two warring sides engaged in ferocious gun battles, in Hodeidah and other provinces. The operations came, just hours after a new round of United Nations-led peace talks did not take place, on Thursday, as scheduled.

The delegation of the Yemeni government gave the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels a 24-hour-deadline, to attend the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva and threatened to withdraw, if Houthi delegates remain absent. Sources close to the government confirmed to Xinhua that, Yemen's Foreign Minister, Khaled Yamani, who leads the negotiating team, agreed to grant Houthis additional time, to show up in Geneva.

However, fighting escalated as the UAE-backed Yemeni forces resumed anti-Houthi military operations and attacked Houthi-controlled areas in Hodeidah province, sparking fears about the fate of the UN-backed talks. A military source said, the pro-government Giant Brigades approached from seizing full control over a main road, in attempt to cut supply lines of Houthis from the capital Sanaa.

Fierce fighting was taking place around that strategic road, the source said. Several Houthi rebels were killed and injured. Some others were captured by the government forces in Hodeidah, according to the source. War planes of the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against the naval college, controlled by the Houthis, and other surrounding areas, causing a series of intensive explosions. Residents said that, ambulances rushed into the targeted areas.

Local Yemeni observers said, the Yemeni government forces, backed by the coalition, might advance militarily to expel the Houthi gunmen out of Hodeidah, after stalling the Geneva talks. "Sparking a real battle against Houthis in Hodeidah will be the expected response from the government and its allies," said Anis Abdulrahman, a political observer based in Aden.

"Resuming the military operations, particularly in Hodeidah, will press and force Houthis to join the Geneva talks, as soon as possible," the observer added.

The UN-sponsored talks between the two warring rivals were scheduled to start on Thursday, but the Houthi leaders decided to set new conditions before the talks, including flying some of their seriously injured members to neighbouring Oman for treatment.

A Yemeni government official, based in Aden said, the Saudi-led Arab coalition gave the Houthi delegation permission to depart from Sanaa airport, before they put forward additional requests. However, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, chief of Houthi negotiating team, said in a statement on Thursday that they did not get a plane.

The last UN-backed peace negotiations for Yemen were held in 2016 in Kuwait, which continued for several months in the Gulf country, but no constructive results had been reached, due to serious differences between the rival parties.


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