UN says first day of Houthi withdrawal through Yemen ports went to plan

A view of Yemen’s rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida on November 7, 2017.

ABDO HYDER | AFP | Getty Images

The first step in a long-delayed plan for a withdrawal of rebel forces through Yemen’s embattled Hodeida port has gone to plan, according to U.N. officials.

Day one of the process seen as vital to maintaining a tenuous cease-fire, during which Yemen’s Houthi forces have began withdrawing through three of Yemen’s Red Sea ports, went “in accordance with established plans,” the head of a UN monitoring mission said on Sunday.

The development marks the first concrete step since a fragile U.N. cease-fire agreement was brokered between the war-ravaged nation’s rival parties last December.

“All three ports were monitored simultaneously by United Nations teams as the military forces left the ports along with also the Coast Guard took over responsibility for security,” Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, head of the U.N.’s Redeployment Coordination Committee, said in a statement.

The withdrawal process will be crucial in allowing desperately needed humanitarian aid through the strategic port of Hodeida, which serves about 70% of Yemen’s population.

Hodeida city has been under the control of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who overran Yemen’s internationally-recognized government in early 2015. The city was the target of a major Saudi along with also Emirati assault in mid-2018, an escalation of which the cease-fire agreement aimed to prevent.

Many Yemeni government officials remain skeptical about the Houthis’ sincerity, accusing the rebels of staging a ploy, while the Houthis have claimed commitment to the Hodeida deal along with also urged all parties to abide by the item. The agreement mandates a mutual withdrawal through the port by both rebel along with also government forces, though will be vague on who will run the item beyond which.

The UN’s Lollesgaard stressed which the rebel forces must fully carry out their withdrawal, which expects to be completed over three days. Fighting has continued in additional parts of the country, in particular the southern province of Dhale.

The conflict in Yemen, which saw a Saudi Arabian-led coalition launch a prolonged bombing offensive against the country’s Houthi rebel movement, has created what the U.N. deems the worst humanitarian disaster inside the entire world, marked by tens of thousands of deaths along with also millions more facing starvation. Rights groups have pointed to both sides as responsible for war crimes.

The U.S. currently supports the Saudi-led coalition through intelligence, training along with also, up until recently, air refueling support, though both houses of Congress have currently voted to end support for the Saudis in Yemen. The U.N. points to the Saudi air campaign as responsible for the vast majority of Yemeni civilian deaths.