First Yemen pullback from Hodeida 'could begin on Tuesday'

First Yemen pullback from Hodeida 'could begin on Tuesday'
UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that both sides agreed to pull back from lifeline ports in the Yemeni city of Hodeida as soon as Tuesday.
2 min read
19 February, 2019
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, arrives in Sanaa [AFP/Getty Images]

The first redeployment of forces in Yemen's lifeline port city of Hodeida is due to begin later on Tuesday or the following day, a UN envoy said, marking the first concrete step toward de-escalation in the three year war.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-linked Houthi rebels agreed on Sunday to the first phase of the pullback of forces, which was detailed in the ceasefire deal reached in December in Sweden.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that both sides agreed to pull back firstly from the rebel-held ports of Saleef and Ras Issa followed by a redeployment from Hodeida port, also held by the Houthis, and then critical parts of the city.   

"With the beginning, possibly even today or tomorrow, of the implementation of that part of the Hodeida agreement, we now have the opportunity to move from the promise made in Sweden to hope now for Yemen," Griffiths told the council, speaking by video conference from Amman.

The redeployment of forces would allow access to Red Sea Mills food warehouses, a site cut off since September which holds enough World Food Programme grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said.

14 million Yemenis are currently on the brink of famine and more than 85,000 have died from starvation.

The Houthis and the government agreed in December to withdraw troops from Hodeida by January 7, a date that came and went without change. Both sides have accused each other of repeatedly breaching the ceasefire.

This latest development marks the first real step towards ending the devastating war, which the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The withdrawal of fighters would re-open the Red Sea port, which functions as the main entry point for the bulk of imported goods and relief aid to Yemen

Yemen's rebels have been locked in a war with government forces backed since 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition.

Since 2015 the US has provided support to the coalition, including intelligence and, until recently, aerial refueling, but it has not had forces involved in "hostilities"".

Now a resolution to end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen is expected to pass in the Senate.