Houthi rebels begin withdrawal from port of Hodeidah

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have begun withdrawing from the port of Hodeidah – the first major step since a ceasefire agreement signed in December, at which both the Houthis and government forces agreed to withdraw from the port to let in humanitarian aid.

The redeployment is expected to take about four days.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq described the process as a “first step”.

Al-Hasan Taher, a senior pro-government official, accused the rebels of replacing themselves with other Houthi militia members dressed in coast guard and police uniforms. “It’s an attempt to disinform the international community,” he claimed.

The Houthi rebels said that its “unilateral” pullout showed “commitment to implement the Hodeidah agreement and to achieving peace”.

A pullout from the ports is seen as the move of least risk for the Houthis. They have reinforced in the city. Many of the Coast Guard and port officials are regarded as civil servants who, if this pullout is completed, will run the ports with UN experts.