Yemeni rebels yesterday confirmed that they were beginning a unilateral withdrawal from the port of Hodeida in a bid to begin implementation of a truce brokered by the UN in December last year.
Hodeida is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imports and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions of civilians who have been pushed to the brink of famine by more than four years of devastating conflict.
Fighters would start pulling back at 10am, said Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, head of the rebels’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee.
He said that the rebels had been forced to act unilaterally after the Saudi Arabian-backed government repeatedly delayed a parallel pullback from parts of the city of Hodeida that it had pledged to make under the truce deal.
“The [rebel] army and committees are withdrawing unilaterally as a result of the refusal of the countries of the US-British-Saudi-Emirati aggression and their allies to implement the [Stockholm] accord,” the rebel leader said on Twitter.
The UN late on Friday announced that the rebels were yesterday expected to begin a long-delayed withdrawal from Hodeida and two other Red Sea ports, the first step on the ground since the ceasefire deal was struck in Sweden.
The withdrawal of rebel forces would be completed by Tuesday, General Michael Lollesgaard, head of the UN redeployment committee, said in a statement.
A UN observer mission led by Lollesgaard would monitor the withdrawal.
Yemeni Minister of Information Moammer al-Eryani, welcomed the UN announcement, but warned the rebels might be trying to “mislead” the international community.
“We welcome any measures towards the implementation of the Sweden agreement on redeployment in ports in Hodeida province and warn of attempts by the militia to mislead the international community and the [UN] Security Council before the next meeting,” Eryani tweeted.
He said any unilateral redeployment by the rebels without control and joint verification “cannot be accepted.”
Lollesgaard welcomed the rebel plan “to undertake an initial unilateral redeployment from the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa.”
However, fighting continued on Friday in Yemen’s southern Dhale province, Yemeni officials said.
Rebel incursions into Dhale, which had been under the control of forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government, started in April, killing hundreds of fighters on both sides, officials said.
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war pitting the Houthi rebels against the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi since March 2015.
Officials said the Houthi rebel push into Dhale was in part aided by ongoing feuding between Hadi’s fighters and those backed by the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
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