The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it is ready to use “calibrated force” to prod Houthi rebels into abiding by the cease-fire in the port city of Hodeida.
“To preserve the cease-fire and any hope for the political process, the U.N. and the international community must press Houthis to stop violations … and move forward on withdrawal from Hodeida as agreed,” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said Wednesday.
The UAE is a key member of the coalition supporting the Yemeni government in trying to force the Iranian-backed Houthis out of the country.
The rebels and Yemeni officials reached a cease-fire deal for Hodeida in December. The rebel-controlled port is the major entry point for food and other humanitarian relief for suffering Yemeni civilians.
All sides promised to withdraw their forces from the city but have been slow to implement the deal. There have been occasional flare-ups of gunfire.
But the rebels and coalition have started carrying out the prisoner exchange that was part of the cease-fire deal.
U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, who has been working to keep the cease-fire from falling apart, said he welcomes the unconditional release of prisoners and said he hopes to see more humanitarian gestures.
The Houthis seized the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in 2014, sending the government into temporary exile in Saudi Arabia. It has since returned to set up shop in the southern city of Aden.
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes made the fighting worse and deepened what U.N. officials call the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with nearly 80 percent of Yemeni civilians lacking enough food, fuel and medicine.