HODEIDA (Yemen) – The elements of the "Ansarallah (Houthis) movement began to withdraw Saturday from the port of Hodeida, a key city in western Yemen, under an agreement reached with the government in early December, said a senior official. UN.
This official stated that the Houthi elements had begun to leave the port by midnight (Friday 2100 GMT).
The Houthis began "the first phase of redeployment (by withdrawing) from the port of Hodeida," confirmed an Ansar Allah movement official at the Yemeni Saba news agency.
The UN-sponsored agreement concluded in Sweden provides for a truce that has already entered into force on 18 December in Hodeida, the main front of the conflict and the entry point for most of the country's imports and aid humanitarian.
Since 2014, the city has been controlled by the Houthis, against which government forces led an offensive to try to regain control of the city.
Government forces are thus required to withdraw from parts of the city they have conquered. The UN Security Council decided last week to send civilian observers to Yemen to secure the operation of the strategic port of Hodeida and oversee the evacuation of the fighters from that city.
United Nations chief of observers in Yemen, retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, chaired this week the first meeting of the joint committee (rebels (Houthis) -government) to implement the truce but also the withdrawal of the combatants from the ports of Hodeida, Salif and Ras Issa, in the same province.
According to the UN, this committee discussed "the first phase of implementation of the ceasefire-based agreement and confidence-building measures to enable the distribution of humanitarian aid and redeployment (of belligerents). "
The chief observer of the UN visited the port of Hodeida, a town in western Yemen where a truce has been in force for more than a week.
A new meeting of this committee is scheduled for January 1 to discuss a complete withdrawal, the UN said in a statement. The UN also said a convoy of humanitarian aid should leave Hodeida on Saturday for the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
"To establish confidence-building measures, the parties agreed to start opening the blocked humanitarian corridors, with the Hodeida-Sanaa road first, then other roads will follow one by one" , writes the UN.
However, the truce remains fragile: in fact, fighting, skirmishes and other exchanges of fire have not really stopped since its entry into force while the two parties accuse each other of violating it. On-site sources in Hodeida reported that Loyalist forces and the Houthis briefly exchanged gunfire during the night as planes from the Saudi-led military coalition were heard Saturday morning.
In addition to the ceasefire, the Swedish agreement provides for an exchange of some 15,000 prisoners as well as measures to facilitate the delivery of aid to Taez (southwest), a city in the hands of the Loyalists and besieged by the Houthis. Inter-senate talks are scheduled to resume in late January.
Sanaa airport, closed for almost three years to commercial flights, will be the focus of these talks, according to UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths.
The crisis in Yemen, between forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Ansar Allah movement, intensified in March 2015 with the intervention of the Saudi-led military coalition alongside government forces. The conflict has killed at least 10,000 people since 2015 and caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and up to 20 million people are "food insecure", according to the UN.