No Houthi military in three key Yemen ports for past month – U.N.

No Houthi military in three key Yemen ports for past month - U.N.

A U.N. mission monitoring a peace deal between warring parties in Yemen’s Hodeidah region said on Wednesday it had not detected any Houthi military forces in three key ports since the group withdrew a month ago.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement’s unilateral pullout from the ports, used for grain, oil, commerce and aid, was the most significant advance yet for efforts to end the four-year-old war and relieve a hunger crisis.

Tensions flared again on Wednesday, however, after a Houthi missile attack on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia wounded 26 people and a Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government that was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis in late 2014.

In December, Yemen’s government and the Houthis met in Sweden and agreed to a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal for Hodeidah. Under phase one, the Houthis pulled out of the Red Sea ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa last month.

Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard, who heads the U.N. monitoring mission in Hodeidah, said in a statement that regular U.N. patrols had not detected a Houthi military presence in the three ports since May 14. He said coast guard forces were providing port security, but the United Nations could not yet confirm if the coast guard was operating at the agreed strength of 450.

Lollesgaard said Houthi military installations and equipment had been removed from Saleef and Ras Isa, but largely remained in Hodeidah. He called on the Houthis to “expeditiously complete the removal of all military manifestations, including trenches as part of their commitment to the process.”