Hodeidah: observers from both sides deployed to Red Sea city

A UN committee has put in place monitors to strengthen the ceasefire agreed in Sweden last year

epa07934862 Members of Houthi militia pass a destroyed building during the deployment of observers on cross-lines in Hodeidah, Yemen, 19 October 2019. According to reports, Lieutenant General of India Abhijit Guha, chair of the UN's redeployment coordination committee in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah, oversaw the deployment of observers on cross-lines and checkpoints in Hodeidah to stabilize the ceasefire and activate a new procedure for de-escalation in the port city between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government forcers. Hodeidah is the key lifeline entry point for most of the Arab country’s food imports and humanitarian aid.  EPA/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI

The UN committee tasked with overseeing the ceasefire in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah has begun deploying monitors from both sides to the city, a military source in the joint pro-government forces confirmed to The National.

“The UN Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) monitoring the withdrawal of the warring forces in Hodeidah city in Yemen started on Saturday deploying monitors from both parties in the outskirts of the city to strengthen the ceasefire around the city and stop any violations,” the source told The National.

The deployment came after a meeting brought together the two warring sides on the border of their lines of control in the city, and the newly appointed observer of the UN mission monitoring the Hodeidah ceasefire, Indian Lieutenant General Abhijit Guha.

“The meeting succeeded in setting up the first monitoring point in the July 7 neighborhood in Al-Khamseen street eastern the city of Hodeidah,” Colonel Wathah Al-Dubaish, spokesperson of the joint forces in Hodeidah, told The National.

He confirmed that an officer from the joint forces and another from the Houthi rebels were deployed to form the first monitoring point in the city.

“The two officers will work collaboratively with the UN monitors who are deployed on the UN ship in the national waters to strengthen the ceasefire, through preventing infiltrations and stopping any attempts for trenching, and to report any reinforcements push from both parties,” the colonel said.

The monitors are due to be deployed at four points on the eastern and southern outskirts of the city for the first phase of its implementation. If this takes place successfully, then the second stage will be implemented, he said. That will entail monitors being deployed to the southern Hodeidah districts of Al Duraihimi, Haiys and Al Tuhaiyta.

“After deploying monitors from the two warring parties all over the clashes zones in and around the city and in the southern districts, the UN monitors will then take part in the monitoring process, they will join the local monitors on the ground to lead the new phase of the ceasefire,” Col Al-Dubaish added.

The spokesperson said that the head of the government team in the RCC told Mr Guha that this is the last chance for the Houthi rebels to engage seriously in the withdrawal process, reiterating that the joint forces will no longer allow the Houthis to obstruct the implementation of the ceasefire deal struck in Sweden between both sides in December 2018.

Separately, the World Food Programme (WFP) in Yemen succeeded earlier last week in transferring aid supplies to more than 19 families have been detained in a rebel-held pocket in Al-Duraihimi city, located in eastern Hodeidah.

Six trucks carrying lifesaving assistance including medicine arrived in the city, where the families have been detained and used as human shields by the Houthi rebels since August 2018, when the joint forces liberated 90 per cent of the city. They could not launch the last push to take over the whole city because the Houthi rebels fortified in the centre refused to surrender and took the families remaining in the city as hostages.

Ali Ridha Kirshi, the deputy WFP representative in Yemen who led the relief convoy that arrived to the detained families in Al-Duraihimi, said last Wednesday in video footage obtained by The National that the convoy delivered lifesaving assistance, including medicine for women and children.

“We met some sick people there and delivered the assistance which we couldn’t do earlier because of serious challenges,” he said.

The WFP representative praised the efforts exerted by the joint forces, who worked hard to pave the way for the relief convoy to reach the detained civilians.