UN monitoring rebel withdrawal from Yemen's Hodeida | Ap Wire

UN monitoring rebel withdrawal from Yemen's Hodeida | Ap Wire

The withdrawal would begin on May 11 at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT), the head of the Houthis' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said on Twitter on Saturday.

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

The first step in a long-delayed plan for a withdrawal of rebel forces from Yemen's embattled Hodeida port has gone to plan, according to United Nations officials.

Yemen's Houthi movement forces ride in the back of vehicle during withdrawal from Saleef port in Hodeidah province, Yemen May 11, 2019. The deal also requires that Saudi-backed government forces leave the area.

The government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, have advanced to the southern outskirts of the port city since June 2017, but the forces have halted a major offensive to recapture Hodeidah to pave the way for peace efforts.

He accused the government of delaying a parallel pullback from parts of the city of Hodeidah that it had pledged to make under a December truce.

Sources close to the Huthis said the ports were handed over to coastguard personnel who were in charge before the rebels took over Hodeida nearly five years ago.

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Yemen's government has asked the United Nations to give timeframes for the next steps of the peace deal, after Houthi forces began withdrawing in the most significant advance yet for efforts to end the four-year war and relieve civilians of poverty and hunger.

The UN's Lollesgaard stressed that the rebel forces must fully carry out their withdrawal, which expects to be completed over three days. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

The UN has commented that the first day of Houthi redeployment was "in accordance with established plans".

Hodeidah became the focus of the war past year when the coalition twice tried to seize its port to cut off the main supply line of the Houthis, who they accuse of smuggling Iranian weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. Coalition forces, now massed 4km from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city, are to retreat 1km from two flashpoint districts.

The conflict in Yemen, which saw a Saudi Arabian-led coalition launch a prolonged bombing offensive against the country's Houthi rebel movement, has created what the United Nations deems the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, marked by tens of thousands of deaths and millions more facing starvation.

The coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.