Yemen gov't accuses rebels of faking ports pullout

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A senior pro-government official accused Yemen's Huthi rebels of faking an announced pullout from 3 Red Sea ports in the flashpoint province of Hodeida on Saturday, May 11.

"The Huthis are staging a new ploy by handing over the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa to themselves without any monitoring by the United Nations and the government side," provincial governor Al-Hasan Taher told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The rebels and the United Nations have said the Huthis were to withdraw unilaterally from the 3 aid ports starting Saturday, in the first practical implementation of a ceasefire deal struck in Sweden in December.

Taher's accusation came after the Huthi rebels, who have been in control of the ports since 2014, said they had carried out their obligations.

"We have implemented all obligations of the first phase of redeployment. The UN must commit the other side to implement its obligations," Brigadier Mohammed al-Qaderi, the Huthi representative in a joint coordination team, said on Twitter.

Sources close to the Iran-aligned Huthis told AFP that the ports were handed over to coast guard personnel who were in charge before the rebels took over almost 5 years ago.

There was no independent confirmation of a rebel withdrawal, and a UN observer mission in the city of Hodeida remained cautious in its initial assessment.

"The UN has started monitoring this unilateral step," a source told AFP.

"The UN hopes soon to be in a position to report to the Security Council on actual movements on the ground."

The council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday.

The Hodeida governor said the unilateral step of the Huthis contradicted the terms of the ceasefire deal and accused the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, of collaborating with the rebels.

"Martin Griffiths wants to achieve victory even if the Huthis hand over (the ports) to themselves," the government-appointed official said.

"This is totally rejected by us, and the agreement must be implemented in full, especially with regards to the identity of the troops that will take over from the Huthis," Taher said. – Rappler.com