Houthi rebels begin withdrawal from key ports in Yemen | Yemen News

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have begun a long-delayed withdrawal of their forces from key ports in Hodeidah province, the group said, under the terms of a UN-brokered peace agreement aimed at ending the country’s four-year-long civil war.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the pullout from Hodeidah as well as the Saleef and Ras Issa ports started at 10am local time (07:00GMT) on Saturday.

The Houthi-run Al Masirah TV channel said United Nations observers were monitoring the troop redeployment which is expected to take four days in total.

Reuters news agency, citing a witness, reported that UN teams were overseeing the Houthis’ departure from Saleef and Ras Issa.

The Reuters witness said the Yemeni coastguard had taken command of operations at Saleef after a dozen trucks carrying Houthi fighters, armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, departed from the port.

A senior pro-government official, however, accused the Houthis of faking a pullout.

“The Houthis are staging a new ploy by handing over the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa to themselves without any monitoring by the United Nations and the government side,” provincial governor Al-Hasan Taher told AFP news agency.

Moammar al-Eryani, information minister of Yemen‘s internationally-recognised government, also dismissed the redeployment, alleging it was an attempt to “disinform the international community”.

“What happened today is a flagrant show, a group of [Houthi] militiamen left [the city] and they were replaced by others wearing coastguard police uniforms,” al-Eryani told Reuters.

Two-phase withdrawal

The Houthis’ reported withdrawal came after the UN announced on Friday that the group had unilaterally agreed to pull out its forces from the three key ports as part of a “first practical step on the ground” towards fulfilling a pact agreed between Yemen’s warring factions in Sweden last December.

The UN mission to support the peace deal said it will monitor the multi-step redeployment, adding that the move must be followed by “the committed, transparent and sustained actions of the parties to fully deliver on their obligations”.

Under the first phase, the Houthis are expected to pull back five kilometres from the three ports, while pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-UAE-led coalition and stationed four kilometres from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city are due to retreat one kilometre.

Brigadier Mohammed al-Qaderi, the Houthi representative in a joint coordination team, said the group had implemented “all obligations” of the first phase and called on the UN to commit the pro-government forces to do the same, AFP reported.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt welcomed the Houthi move.

“We appear to be approaching implementation of the mutual redeployment of forces – a key step to ending this brutal war,” he said in a tweet.

A second phase of withdrawal is scheduled to follow in which both sides pull their troops 18km outside of Hodeidah and heavy weapons 30km away.

Kurt Tjossem, the International Rescue Committee’s regional director for the Horn and East Africa, said in a statement it was crucial both phases of redeployment were “verified” and “followed by sustained commitment by all parties to make good on their Stockholm obligations”.

Humanitarian crisis

Once the Houthis withdraw, the UN mission said it will take “a leading role in supporting the Red Sea Ports Corporation in managing the ports” and enhance checks on cargoes.

Humanitarian officials have long pleaded with Yemen’s warring sides to spare Hodeidah, which serves as the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and a lifeline for vital aid supplies.

But the peace deal had stalled since January amid deep mistrust among the parties in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and triggered an economic collapse in the Arab world’s poorest nation, pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation.

The coalition alleged the Houthis used Hodeidah as a landing point to smuggle weapons supplied by Iran into Yemen, a charge the group and Tehran have repeatedly denied.

Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, said the lack of trust between the two sides presented a “huge problem” to efforts aimed at ending the war.

“Words are very good but to develop a little bit of trust that could potentially pave the way to eventually solve this conflict is going to really require some actions,” Cafiero told Al Jazeera.

The conflict in Yemen, home to an estimated 28 million people, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis, who toppled the internationally-recognised government of President  Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi .

Concerned by the rise of the rebel group, believed to be backed by Iran, the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government. 

The Houthis control the biggest urban centres while Hadi’s administration holds the southern port of Aden and a string of coastal towns.


Source

more recommended stories

  • Kurdish leader Ocalan calls end to jail hunger strikes in Turkey | News

    Imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

  • Iranian FM visits Baghdad to discuss rising tensions with the US | Iran News

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has.

  • Should we fear for India’s democracy? | India elections 2019

    Weeks before the general elections in.

  • Citing Iran, Trump bypasses Congress to sell arms to Saudis | Saudi Arabia News

    US President Donald Trump, declaring a.

  • Indonesia’s Prabowo challenges election result in court | News

    Defeated Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

  • India elections 2019: All the latest updates | India News

    Counting of votes is under way.

  • US charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with espionage | USA News

    The US Justice Department unveiled 17.

  • What you need to know about India’s BJP | India News

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is.

  • Pentagon ‘mulls sending thousands more troops’ to Middle East | News

    The United States‘ Department of Defense.

  • US House Speaker Pelosi says Trump is engaged in a ‘cover up’ | USA News

    Democrats in the United States House.

  • Washington says attacks ‘deterred’ as US-Iran tensions rise | News

    The acting US defence secretary says.

  • New Ukrainian President Zelensky calls early parliamentary polls | Ukraine News

    Ukraine‘s new President Volodymyr Zelensky called.

  • Water supplies restored to besieged Libyan capital Tripoli | Libya News

    Water supplies to the 2.5 million.

  • Trump loses lawsuit challenging subpoena for financial records | Trump News

    A US judge on Monday ruled.

  • North African filmmakers pushing boundaries at Cannes 2019 | France News

    This year’s Cannes Film Festival is.

  • US says warship sails in South China Sea amid trade tensions | News

    The United States military has said.

  • Saudi Arabia ‘seeks to avert war, ready to respond with force’ | News

    Saudi Arabia wants to avert war.

  • Eurovision vs Globalvision: An artistic response | Palestine News

    Bethlehem and London – Palestinian, Israeli.

  • Presidential hopeful Joe Biden calls for unity in inaugural rally | Elections 2018 News

    Former Vice President Joe Biden has.

  • US warns airliners flying over Gulf of ‘misidentification’ | Iran News

    US diplomats warned commercial airliners flying.

  • Australian election: Voting under way in key contest | Australia News

    Melbourne, Australia – Australians are heading.

  • An Iranian building bridges in wall-obsessed America | US & Canada

    A towering artist of his generation,.

  • Taiwan parliament to vote on same-sex marriage legislation | Taiwan News

    Amid deep divisions, Taiwan‘s parliament has.

  • The Philippines’ Duterte: In pursuit of an imperial presidency | Asia

    Although President Rodrigo Duterte‘s name was.

  • Venezuela government, opposition in Norway for crucial talks | News

    Envoys from the Venezuelan government and.

  • Alibaba earnings hint at China’s ability to weather trade war | China News

    China‘s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group reported.

  • Iran halts some commitments under 2015 nuclear deal | News

    Iran has officially stopped some commitments.

  • PNG assesses damage from magnitude 7.5 earthquake | Papua New Guinea News

    Authorities in Papua New Guinea have dispatched.

  • Palestinian campaigners call for mass boycott of Airbnb on May 15 | News

    A Palestinian campaign has called on.

  • Spyware discovered targeting phones through WhatsApp calls | News

    Spyware crafted by an “advanced cyber.

  • Senior Palestinian official says she was refused US visa | USA News

    A senior Palestinian official has said she.

  • Sweden to reopen rape probe against WikiLeaks founder Assange | News

    Julian Assange is to be investigated.