Hadramout21:Thenational 

Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked civilian and military targets in Hodeidah as their representatives were attending the opening of peace talks in Sweden, government forces said

“On Thursday, just as the peace negotiations started, the Houthis pounded City Max mall – one of the biggest in the city – with artillery until it was destroyed,” Col Mamoon Al Mahjami, spokesman of the Al Amalikah Brigades, told The National

Colonel Al Mahjami said the building was completely burnt and the loss was estimated at more than one billion riyals (Dh14.7m)

The hostilities are taking place despite a plea by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, for calm in Hodeidah to ensure that its port remained open for vital food and aid shipments. the fate of the city and its port is one of the main points on the agenda at the Sweden talks

The Houthis also shelled Haiys district in southern Hodeidah province on Thursday, residents said. The mortar fire from rebel-controlled areas in the nearby Al Nar mountains caused heavy damage to four homes, two of which belonged to families who had just returned from a displacement camp where they fled during fighting for control of the area

Government forces liberated the district in February this year but the Houthis still control mountains to the east and north from which they fire mortars and Katyusha rockets, the residents said

On Wednesday, the rebels shelled homes in Tuhaiyta, also in southern Hodeidah, where they have hideouts in palm plantations to south and east of the city from which they launch mortar attacks

“The Houthis shelled my home just an hour after we evacuated it,” a resident told The National. “We were really lucky to escape because the shelling was very heavy and caused a lot of damage to the house”

The rebels on Thursday tried to seize the main route linking Hodeidah city with southern districts and Aden in the Al Faza area but were repelled by Al Amalikah troops, Lt Mohammed Qaida told The National, speaking from the frontline

“The Houthis are exploiting the halt to take back strategic sites in the south of Hodeidah. Our patience is running out and if the UN doesn’t take the Houthi violations seriously then we will storm the city and the ports, this will be our response,” he said

On Friday, Al Amalikah troops advanced towards Hodeidah city centre from south of Al Saleh city and the 7 July area to clear Houthi snipers stationed on rooftops.

An Al Amalikah source told The National that troops from the 3rd Brigade National had surrounded dozens of rebel snipers in Al Saleh.