A Yemeni fighter stands next to an army pickup truck on the road leading to Khaled Ibn Al Walid base, 30 kilometres east of the government-held Red Sea port town of Mokha. Image Credit: AFP

Geneva: The Yemeni government has proposed to the United Nations that it monitors the rebel-held port of Hodeida to ensure that no arms are smuggled through it, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

A Saudi-led military coalition backing the internationally-recognised government in its war against Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels has been preparing to liberate Hodeida.

Prime Minister Ahmad Obeid Bin Dagher repeated allegations that Al Houthis are smuggling weapons into Yemen through Hodeida and said his government has proposed that the United Nations supervise the port to head off a possible attack.

He told Reuters in Geneva: “This port has been developed for receiving weapons for the militias. We are taking decisions to finalise what is going on. We don’t prefer using force there.

“So it’s us who proposed to the United Nations to operate the port and to impose monitoring on the port.”

The government had discussed this with UN Secretary General Anotnio Guterres at a conference of aid donors held to address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the war.

“But we didn’t receive a clear answer on this matter,” he said.

The United Nations says two-thirds of Yemen’s 26 million people need assistance to avert famine.

The world body announced pledges of $1.1 billion towards its $2.1 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen this year after the conference held on Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which stopped using Hodeida port in February, is bringing supplies by sea from Oman to Aden and “testing” land routes from Oman, ICRC regional director Robert Mardini told Reuters on Wednesday.

It has coalition permission to fly supplies into Aden airport, closed to commercial flights, he said. The government is based in Aden while Al Houthis hold the capital Sana’a.

The ICRC is supporting Al Mansoura hospital in Aden, which has treated 5,000 critically wounded people so far this year, and is sending a surgical team to expand capacity, Mardini said.

Bin Dagher said Al Houthis were holding nearly 3,000 detainees, including journalists and activists, and that the government wanted independent monitoring of their conditions.

The ICRC is seeking access from both sides to allow it to visit detainees held in connection with the conflict.

“We are getting many requests from families,” Mardini said.

“We have some worrying reports.” But both sides have demanded that the other side first allow ICRC to see its detainees, he said.