Sana’a: Security officials say heavy fighting has broken out between government-allied troops and Iran-backed Al Houthi militants in and around Yemen’s contested port city of Hodeida.

Thursday’s fighting, which went on for about three hours, is thought to be the biggest breach yet of a fragile ceasefire in the city reached in UN-sponsored talks in Sweden last month.

Officials said the two sides used heavy weapons, including mortars, and were bringing in reinforcements.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

The fighting took place one day after UN Envoy Martin Griffiths left Yemen after a two-day visit in while he sought to try and salvage the Hodeida truce, which includes the withdrawal of forces from the Red Sea port city.

On Wednesday, Yemen’s Minister for Human Rights, Mohammad Askar, accused Al Houthis militias of obstructing the UN-sponsored Sweden Agreement by bombing civilians, and impeding the flow of aid and looting aid convoys within full view of all international organisations operating in Yemen.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council that convened in Geneva late Wednesday to review Yemen’s human rights record, Mohammad Askar, Yemen’s Minister for Human Rights, said that a secure and prosperous future for Yemenis will not be achieved through a fragile political settlement that gives immunity to criminals and allows outlawed militias to keep and bear arms.

“A better future can only materialise by laying down a sound basis for permanent and comprehensive peace that ensures growth and peaceful coexistence for all Yemenis under the three references agreed upon locally, regionally and internationally: GCC Peace Initiative; Outcome of National Dialogue Conference; and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216,” said the minister.

Now that four years have passed since their coup against legitimacy, the Houthi militias have perpetrated war crimes and committed flagrant violations of the International Humanitarian Law by killing thousands of people and waging random attacks against hospitals, schools, residential districts and markets, he added.

“[It’s] time for the international community, NGOs [and] press to take off the velvet gloves when addressing Al Houthis’ obdurate behaviour,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said earlier on Wednesday.

Thursday, Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi also accused Al Houthis of failing to respect the ceasefire deal.

The UN Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, met with Hadi in Riyadh yesterday, after holding talks with rebels in Sana’a.

Yemen’s government coalition and rebels agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeida, the Red Sea city seized by Al Houthis in 2014 and home to impoverished Yemen’s most valuable port.

A precarious calm has largely held in the city since a ceasefire agreement came into force on December 18 but Al Houthi attacks elsewhere have threatened the fragile truce.