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article imageYemen rebels mine entrances to Hodeida port: employees

By AFP     Nov 14, 2018 in World

Yemeni rebels are planting landmines around the key port of embattled Hodeida, employees said Wednesday, as a loyalist push to take the insurgent-held city appears to have stalled.

The Huthi rebels, who seized the Red Sea city in 2014, have claimed the mining of areas across Hodeida province, airing footage late Tuesday of what they said were landmine explosions targeting pro-government forces.

Three port employees reached by telephone said the rebels had also begun to mine entryways to the port overnight.

The workers said the Huthis had planted explosives near two of the port's gates, one that leads to Jizan Road, a main street in the city's north, and the other near the Alsanabel flour mill company.

"There is only one entrance left into the port, and that is the main gate that leads to Mina Street that trucks use," one employee, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

Hodeida port came under attack on Monday night for the first time since June, when government troops supported by a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to take the city from the Iran-backed Huthis.

The port's deputy director, Yahya Sharafeddine, said the main entrance to the docks had been hit but was fully functioning.

Nearly four years into the war, diplomatic pressure is rising to end fighting in Hodeida, whose docks are the entry point for nearly all food imports and humanitarian aid into impoverished Yemen.

The United Nations has warned an attack on the port would be "catastrophic" in a country where half the population is at risk of starvation.

The UN is pushing for peace talks by the end of the year.

Hodeida port is under a near-total blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies, who accuse Iran of smuggling arms to the Huthis.

Tehran denies the accusation.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition joined the conflict in 2015 to bolster President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, triggering what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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