“As they were leaving, one U.N. marked armored vehicle sustained one round of small-arms fire. The team returned to base without further incident,” Dujarric told reporters in New York, adding that Cammaert was not in the vehicle that was hit. “We do not have information as to the source of the fire.”
The rebel Houthi movement, which controls the city, blamed the attack on the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition, whose forces surround the outskirts of Hodeida on three sides. The coalition, in turn, blamed the rebels.
The incident was the latest sign of the immense challenges facing the U.N. and the international community in seeking to end Yemen’s debilitating war and alleviate a worsening humanitarian crisis, which has left millions on the brink of famine.
The Shiite Houthis have controlled Hodeida and much of northern Yemen since driving the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sanaa, in early 2015. The Sunni Muslim coalition then entered the conflict to restore the government and prevent the rebels’ key ally, Iran, from gaining influence in the region.
The United States has given logistical and intelligence support to the coalition. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have killed thousands of civilians. The fighting has forced more than 3 million to flee their homes as the nation’s health-care and medical systems disintegrated, leaving millions at risk.
Hodeida, in particular, became a focal point of the war last year. More than 70 percent of all food, fuel, medicines and humanitarian aid to the north, home to 80 percent of the population, flow through the port. Last summer, coalition forces launched an offensive and laid siege to the city. International pressure stopped the coalition from a full-scale urban assault that U.N. officials warned would have had catastrophic consequences on the city’s 600,000 residents.
Last month, an unexpected yet much welcomed cease-fire in Hodeida was signed by both sides at U.N.-brokered peace talks in Sweden. But since then, even as the cease-fire has largely held, sporadic attacks have erupted and both sides have accused each other of violating the pact. Meanwhile, the U.N. has been unable to convince the warring sides to withdraw from the port and the city, per the terms of the cease-fire deal.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council greenlighted the deployment of up to 75 observers to help Cammaert, who arrived on Dec. 22. After the attack on his convoy, Cammaert appealed for calm and for both sides to work toward strengthening the cease-fire, Dujarric said.
“All the parties in Yemen are responsible for the safety of all U.N. personnel,” Dujarric said. “We are dealing with a highly volatile environment in Hodeida.”