Houthis Withdrawing from Yemen Ports As Planned

Members of the World Food Programme visit the Red Sea mills warehouse in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on 5 May 2019

Sources close to the Huthis said that the ports were handed over to coastguard personnel who were in charge before the rebels took over nearly five years ago. The U.N. says the conflict in Yemen has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Houthi rebel pullout from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa on Saturday was "in accordance with established plans" and would be verified on Tuesday, the United Nations said.

"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 reporters.

Yemeni warring parties reached a peace deal on Hodeidah in December previous year as the first step toward a comprehensive political solution.

As a result of the meeting, the rebels and the government agreed on a ceasefire in the Yemeni port city of Al Hudaydah - a lifeline for millions facing starvation - and an exchange of prisoners, and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.

Under plans to avert a full-scale assault, the Houthis are to pull back 5km (3 miles) from the ports between 11 and 14 May.

But a minister in the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia dismissed the Iran-aligned Houthis' pullout as a "show" meant to "misinform the global community".

The spokesman for the Yemeni government's delegation to the RCC, Sadiq Dweid, said on Twitter that a Houthi withdrawal is "the first step of the first stage".

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The United Nations will help in the management of the Hodeidah ports, which will be under control of Yemen's Red Sea Port Corporation and local coast guards, and assist in inspection of ships.

However, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani told Reuters the pullout was "a flagrant show".

Hodeida port is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid, serving as a lifeline to millions of civilians pushed to the brink of starvation by more than four years of war.

"The Houthi militia must withdraw from the wharves and from around the ports completely", Col Al Dubaish said.

The agreement also says the two forces are supposed to withdraw from the city's downtown areas in the second phase of the deal. More than 10,000 people have been reported killed in Yemen over the last five months, bringing the war's death toll to over 70,000 since 2016, according to data collated by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

The port of Hodeida is one of Yemen's most important lifelines.

The rebels seized Hodeidah and much of the country's north, including the capital Sanaa in late 2014, forcing President Hadi along with his government into exile in Riyadh.

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