SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A suspected airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shiite rebels hit a local radio station in the Red Sea port province of Hodeida on Sunday, killing at least four people, a rebel official said.
The minister of information in the pro-rebel government, Abdel-Salam Gabir, said three security guards and an employee were among those killed in the attack in al-Marawa district in Hodeida.
Heavy fighting has been raging around Hodeida as Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition are trying to retake the city from the rebels, known as the Houthis.
The latest offensive began earlier this month following the failure of what was hoped to be renewed peace talks in Geneva. It was concentrated in the eastern and southern entrances to the city, which is considered the lifeline of Yemen.
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The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, meanwhile arrived in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, on Sunday in an effort to agree on a new date for peace talks, Yemeni officials said.
They said Griffiths met with Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the rebels, and other top rebel officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Griffiths met last week with representatives of the rebels in Muscat, Oman’s capital, to discuss ways to ensure their participation in future consultations.
He sought earlier this week to downplay the significance of the failure of launching peace talks, saying on Saturday that he would head back to Yemen and neighboring Oman “within days” to work toward an agreement on a new date.
A delegation of the internationally recognized government arrived in Geneva last week for the talks, which were supposed to start on September 6, but the Houthis did not, arguing their safe return was not guaranteed.
Shortly after the failure to launch peace talks, the government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition renewed their offensive to retake the rebel-held Hodeida. They had tried to overrun Hodeida in June but were blocked by the rebels’ resistance.
One main objective of the ongoing fighting is to cut off the road between Hodeida and Sanaa, thus depriving the capital city, which is controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthis, from supplies arriving by sea. Government forces are also trying to cut off the road to Taiz, a fiercely contested and strategic city south of Hodeida.
Impoverished Yemen has been embroiled in the war pitting the Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthis since March 2015. The war against the rebels has devastated impoverished Yemen, turning the Arab nation into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 20 million people in need of assistance.