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Houthis start to redeploy in Hudaydah amid Saudi raids

Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, who heads a United Nations advance team tasked with monitoring a ceasefire in the Yemeni port city of al-Hudaydah, arrives in the capital Sana’a on December 23, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Yemen's Houthi fighters say they have started to redeploy from the port of the Red Sea city of Hudaydah as part of a UN-sponsored peace agreement signed in Sweden earlier this month.

A UN source confirmed the announcement on Saturday which saw Saudi airplanes carry out new airstrikes despite the presence of UN observers who arrived in Hudaydah this week.

"Our forces have started to redeploy since last night from Hudaydah port, as agreed in Sweden," a Houthi military spokesman told Yemen's al-Masirah TV. 

The Houthis have agreed to let international monitors to be deployed in the strategic city. Under the deal, a Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) including both warring sides will oversee implementation.

The redeployment is intended to be the first step in the implementation of the agreement, to be followed by both sides pulling their forces out of three ports of Hudaydah, Salif and Rass Issa. 

The parties are due to present detailed plans for a full redeployment to head of the UN advance team charged with monitoring the ceasefire Patrick Cammaert at the next RCC meeting on Jan. 1, the United Nations said.

It is still unclear how far they will withdraw and who will control the three ports or if the two sides will share control with UN monitors positioned between the two fronts.

The UN monitors will not be uniformed or armed but will provide support for the management of and inspections at the ports and strengthen the UN presence in Hudaydah.

The agreement, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, is part of confidence-building measures intended to pave the way for a wider truce and a framework for
political negotiations.

On Saturday, Saudi air raids hit an area near Qabiah Village in Bayt al-Faqih District on Friday, PressTV’s correspondent Mohammed al-Attab reported from Hudaydah’s countryside.

The attacks came as UN observers met with representatives of Yemen’s former government and the Houthi movement, which defends the country against the invaders.

The United Nations dispatched the team after the two sides hammered out the truce deal affecting Hudaydah Province in Sweden on December 18.

Child killed

The strikes were the latest to be committed by Saudi Arabia and the forces backed by the kingdom since the agreement was reached.

On Friday, Yemeni army spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree said Saudi Arabia had violated the truce as many as 158 times over the previous 24 hours, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported.

He said Saudi-backed militants had attacked various areas across Hudaydah with mortar rounds, adding that one such attack against the province’s Hays District had killed a child and injured another.

“Saudi-backed forces have been accused of committing 70 truce violations only on Thursday, including firing mortar shells and bombarding areas in the eastern side of Hudaydah,” Attab said.

“We felt relieved after the declaration of the ceasefire…also, after the arrival of the UN team of observers. But we fear the current violation of the truce could spark another brutal cycle of violence in the port city,” said a local resident.

“Ansarullah movement has given concessions out of consideration for the civilians in Hudaydah and across Yemen. This goodwill gesture should be respected as it is not a sign of weakness. Ansarullah fighters and we beside them will defend our city and invaders will enter over our dead bodies,” said another.

The truce deal saw the parties agree to let local forces take control of the port, which receives some 80 percent of the humanitarian aid headed into Yemen.

Saudi Arabia launched the offensive in 2015 at the head of the coalition, which also comprised many of its regional allies. The invasion has killed thousands through indiscriminate attacks and brought the country close to the edge of famine, including by blocking entry of foodstuffs and medical supplies through the port.

“The failure of the current truce should shatter a glimmer of hope that was created by the unprecedented talks in Sweden,” Attab said.

“Yemenis believe if such brutal intervention stops, the country’s political factions can bring the country back to order and end the humanitarian crisis.”

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