Yemen: UN says rebel pullout from Yemen ports on track

Yemen's Houthis offer unilateral withdrawal from key ports in coming days - UN

Yemeni Houthis to Withdraw Forces From 3 Key Ports Over 4 Days - Reports

While there is a long way to go before it can be said that this conflict, deemed the worst current humanitarian crisis, is over, any step towards that objective must be welcomed.

The UN confirmed a withdrawal by Yemen's Huthi rebels from three Red Sea ports had begun Saturday, while a senior pro-government official accused the rebels of faking the pullout. The deal also requires that Saudi-backed government forces leave the area.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi group's Supreme Revolutionary Committee, called on the United Nations on Saturday to press the other side (coalition-backed Yemeni government forces) to take "similar steps" and implement Stockholm Agreement.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a Sunni Arab military coalition against the Iran-allied Yemeni Shiite Houthi rebels since March 2015 to support the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the rebels forced him into exile in Riyadh and seized much of Yemen's north, including the capital Sanaa.

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The port of Hodeidah serves as a lifeline for millions in the country.

Yemen's Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani criticized the Houthi offer to redeploy on Twitter, calling it "misleading" and unacceptable if it did not allow for "joint monitoring and verification" as stipulated by the December pact.

But government officials cast doubts over the handover process, saying it was unclear who was taking control of the ports, and experts said it was too soon to say if the move represented genuine progress.

The withdrawal of Houthi forces is expected to take four days.

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"Yes, it has begun", said United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq, when AFP asked whether redeployment of Huthi troops was underway.

Under the redeployment pledge, Huthi militants said they also would move out of Yemen's main Red Sea port of Hodeidah by the end of the day on May 14.

Under the deal brokered by the United Nations in December, the warring parties agreed to withdraw from Hudaydah city and the ports of Hudaydah, Salif and Ras Issa.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war a year ago when the coalition twice tried to seize its port to cut off the main supply line for the Houthis, whom they accuse of smuggling Iranian weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. More than 10,000 people have been reported killed in Yemen over the last five months, bringing the war's death toll to over 70,000 since 2016, according to data collated by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. The Houthis handed over the ports to local coast guard forces in Hodeidah, and two smaller ports in the vicinity.

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In the second phase, both sides would pull troops 18 km outside the city and heavy weapons 30 km away.

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