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Yemen: Thousands displaced after Houthis advance on Hodeidah

The UN says 6,000 people have been displaced from Hodeidah after the Houthis took control of large areas of the port city
Displaced Yemenis receive food aid in the village of Hays, near the conflict zone in Yemen's western province of Hodeidah, on 21 October 2021 (AFP/Khaled Zaid)

Thousands of Yemenis have been displaced after Houthi forces advanced on the strategic port of Hodeidah on Friday, the United Nations said. 

The Iran-aligned movement group seized a large area in Hodeidah after forces loyal to the Yemeni government suddenly withdrew from the city's main port in the west, the UN said. 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a 300-tent site in the town of Khoka, more than 100 kilometres south of Hodeidah, was set up to accommodate the growing number of displaced people. 

"Some 700 families (approximately 4,900 people) were displaced" to Khokha "while 184 other families (about 1,300 people) were displaced further south", to the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha, OCHA said, citing Yemeni government sources. 

"No displacement has been reported within the areas that came under control of the de facto authorities," the statement added in reference to the Houthis. 

Last week, the UN urged "all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety and security of civilians in and around those areas where shifts in frontlines have taken place".

In 2018, a ceasefire was agreed between the warring parties at Yemen's last peace talks in Sweden, but clashes have since broken out between rebels and pro-government troops around the city.

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Hodeidah is the main entry point for commercial goods and humanitarian aid, and a lifeline for millions facing starvation.

Two military officials familiar with the situation told AFP that fighting took place on Saturday when the Houthis attempted to push further south into government territory, but loyalist forces repelled the advance. 

The Houthis are also pushing an offensive to capture Marib, the government's last stronghold in the north.

The coalition said on Monday that it killed more than 140 Houthi insurgents in the past 24 hours in air strikes in the provinces of Marib and Al-Bayda, to the south.

The Houthis rarely comment on the death tolls, which Saudi reports claim to have exceeded 3,500 in the past weeks.