Houthi Forces Withdraw from Port of Hodeidah
The United Nations monitoring mission in Yemen has confirmed that Houthi rebel forces have finally withdrawn from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, in accordance with the terms of a peace agreement signed in December. It is the first step in a larger plan for military redeployments in the city of Hodeidah and surrounding areas.
While "a lot of work needs to be done" to remove military hardware from the ports, the Houthi forces have handed over local control to uniformed Yemeni coast guard members, said Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, the head of the UN mission. These servicemembers will take over providing normal port security, and will be equipped with small arms only.
Two additional tasks will be required to demilitarize Hodeidah: first, remove the land mines, and second, take down the fortifications. "When we do the verification, we will make sure that minefields are removed and de-mined in accordance with international standards, and we are already doing that," said Lollesgaard in a press briefing Wednesday.
He added that Houthi forces have agreed to remove the shipping containers, trenches and tunnels that they have used to fortify the installation. "When we are done, it will not be looking like a military compound with all kinds of trenches and so on, but it [will look] like a normal port," he said.
The next steps in the UN’s implementation of the deal will include a strengthened UN presence to support the management of the three seaports, and to strengthen UNVIM, the UN body responsible for monitoring ships attempting to dock in the ports. The uninterrupted flow of aid shipments through Hodeidah is critical to fending off famine in Yemen, according to the United Nations.