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  • Houthis ride on the back of a truck as they withdraw, as part of a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement.

    Houthis ride on the back of a truck as they withdraw, as part of a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 December 2018

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

Yemen's Houthi forces have started to redeploy from the port of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah Saturday as part of a United Nations-sponsored peace agreement signed in Sweden earlier in December.

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The redeployment of forces comes after Houthis agreed with the Saudi-backed government to implement a ceasefire in Hodeidah province and withdraw their respective forces.

Under the deal, international monitors are to be deployed in Hodeidah and a Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) including both sides, chaired by retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, the head of a United Nations advance team charged with monitoring the ceasefire, arrived in Hodeidah this week and the RCC has started its meetings and fieldwork.

A U.N. source told Reuters that Houthi forces, which control the city and its strategic port, had started to redeploy overnight.

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

The Houthis' withdrawal from the province's three ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Rass Issa is intended to be the first step in the implementation of the agreement, to be followed by both sides pulling their forces out of the city and the surrounding province.

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

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Cammaert’s team will not be uniformed or armed, the U.N. has said, but it will provide support for the management of and inspections at the ports.

Military officials from the government forces, which control some southern parts of the city, said they needed time to establish if the Houthi forces had really withdrawn from the ports.

"They may be just replacing their men with others from the so-called coast guard forces," one official said.

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

The international community has been trying for months to avert an all-out government assault on Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and aid supplies, and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis on the verge of starvation.

The truce came into force on Dec. 18.

On Friday, the U.N. said both parties had agreed to begin opening humanitarian corridors, starting with the key coastal road between Hodeidah and the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa.

The parties are due to present detailed plans for a full redeployment to Cammaert at the next RCC meeting on Jan. 1.

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