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Displaced Yemenis from Hodeida fill jerrycans with water at a make-shift camp in the northern district of Abs in the country's Hajjah province, on June 23, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Yemeni government forces had repulsed fierce attacks by Iran-allied Al Houthi militants that had targeted residential areas inside the coastal city of Hodeidah and outskirts, military forces said on Thursday.

Al Houthis had shelled the district of July 7, about four kilometres from the Hodeidah port, and the city’s southern suburbs, they added.

The government troops had also inflicted heavy casualties on the extremists.

The attacks violated a UN-brokered peace ceasefire deal reached in Sweden six months ago.

In December, the Yemeni government and Al Houthis reached an agreement after UN-sponsored indirect talks near Stockholm, providing for a truce and withdrawals from Hodeida. At the time, the deal was hailed as a breakthrough to end the fighting in the impoverished country. However, the accord has since bogged down over Al Houthis’ procrastination.

“Al Houthi militia failed in their attacks on the positions of the army and joint troops. So, they turned to target citizens with mortar and artillery in the liberated areas,” Walid Al Qadeemi, a senior official in Hodeidah, said, according to pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The attacks come amid a fresh attempt by UN peace envoy Martin Griffiths to revive Yemen’s peace process.

Most humanitarian aid and imports to Yemen enter through the Hodeida port. Al Houthis, who controlled the Red Sea area in late 2014, have been repeatedly accused of using the harbour to illegally smuggle weapons from Iran to sustain their military operations.

Yemen’s conflict erupted after Al Houthis unseated the internationally recognised government and overran parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a, in December 2014.

In March, 2015, an Arab alliance led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, intervened in Yemen in response to a request from the government after Al Houthis advanced on the southern city of Aden, the country’s provisional capital.