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After one of the quietest months in the Yemen war, heavy fighting began again in late January, with the UK-backed, Saudi-led coalition resuming airstrikes and ground attacks, and the Houthi rebels launching missiles and carrying out raids.

A suspected Houthi missile strike on 18 January killed 116 Yemeni government soldiers in the central province of Ma’rib.

This may lead to a major escalation in the war, and the end of tentative peace talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, the major force in the war.

The escalation may lead to fighting around the crucial port of Hodeidah, where a ceasefire has held for a year after the deployment of UN troops in four ‘observation posts’ in the city.

Helen Lackner, author of Yemen in Crisis (Verso, 2019), points out on OpenDemocracy that the presence UN troops since January 2019 ‘forced the [Saudi-led] coalition to abandon its plan to conquer Hodeida, leaving it without a military strategy to defeat the Huthis’. The troops are from UNMHA (the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement).

Lackner goes on: ‘This was one factor which encouraged the Saudis to start direct negotiations with the Huthis, and was probably the main reason for the UAE to announce its military withdrawal from Yemen in mid-2019, which has only been partially implemented.’

Topics: Yemen