Yemen rebel forces withdrew from key port

Yemen rebel forces withdrew from key port

The U.N. says it is monitoring the redeployment of rebel forces from three key ports in Yemen after the government dismissed the withdrawal as a "farce".

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the pullout from Hodeida, as well as the two smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, started at 10 a.m.

Under the deal brokered by the United Nations in December, the warring parties agreed to withdraw from Hudaydah city and the ports of Hudaydah, Salif and Ras Issa.

"The UN has started monitoring this unilateral step", a source told reporters.

The Security Council approved sending 75 observers to Hodeidah four months ago but only 15 had arrived before Saturday.

The council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday.

It is the first major step in implementing the deal, which was reached by the Saudi-backed Yemen government of President Abed-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iran-aligned Houthis for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal in Hodeidah a year ago.

Government officials have questioned whether the Houthis are actually withdrawing from the ports or simply handing over to control rebel fighters in disguise.

Lollesgaard said the full implementation of the Hodeida deal remains instrumental to ensuring life-saving humanitarian access inside Yemen.

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The UN statement comes a day after the Yemeni government accused the rebels of "staging a new ploy" by faking the withdrawal. "A group of (Houthi) militiamen left and they were replaced by others wearing coast guard police uniforms".

"It's an attempt to disinform the global community", he told reporters.

The U.N. -brokered deal was vague on who will control Hodeida's strategic ports after the sides withdraw, saying a "local force" would take over without specifying further.

The UN Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) has said the Houthis would make an "initial unilateral redeployment" from the ports between 11 May and 14 May.

In Dhalea on Saturday, the joint Southern Forces stormed Houthi posts in Qatabah city as they continue to push back a rebel incursion into the government-controlled province.

The rebel withdrawal is part of a ceasefire agreement that requires all forces to pull out of Hodeidah and for the ports to be placed under United Nations supervision.

Pro-government forces have twice tried to seize the port, and accuse the Houthis of using it to smuggle in weapons from Iran. Coalition forces, now massed four km from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city, would retreat one km from "Kilo 8" and Saleh districts.

Hopefully the United Nations sponsored plan is successful and the people of Yemen will be freed from not only the violent conflict they have endured for too many years, but also the effects of near-famine conditions and the country will be cleared of landmines.

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