After their “sudden” withdrawal from Hodeidah, UAE-backed forces talk about redeployment, and the Houthis open the road to Sanaa

After the sudden withdrawal, described locally and internationally, of Emirati-backed forces in the Hodeidah governorate on the western coast of Yemen, the Houthi group rushed to take control of those areas, and also opened the main road linking them to the capital, Sanaa.

The withdrawing forces backed by the UAE said that they evacuated fighting areas in the governorate, according to the Stockholm Agreement, while the government team in the Redeployment Coordination Committee said that what happened took place without coordination with it.

On December 13, 2018, the Yemeni government and the Houthis, after consultations in Sweden, reached an agreement that stipulates a ceasefire in the Hodeidah Governorate, and the withdrawal of the forces of both parties out of the city under Houthi control.

The two sides also reached an understanding to reduce the escalation in Taiz governorate (southwest), and to exchange prisoners, whose number exceeded 16,000, from both sides.

The government team said in a statement, “What is currently happening on the western coast of the redeployment of forces is taking place without our knowledge, and without any previous coordination with us.”

He added, “The redeployment measures are supposed to be carried out in coordination and understanding with the United Nations Mission in Hodeidah through the government team, which was also not in the picture.”

The statement considered that “any progress by the Houthis in areas controlled by the legitimate government in Hodeidah under any circumstance is a clear violation of the spirit and provisions of the Stockholm Agreement, which calls for a clear and explicit position from the international community towards it.”

A tank belonging to the UAE-backed forces in Hodeidah (French)

‘It wasn’t a withdrawal’

For his part, the spokesman for the Emirati-backed forces, Samir Al-Yousifi, said that what happened in Hodeidah was not a withdrawal, but a redeployment. He added – in a previous interview with Al Jazeera from Mocha – that this was implemented in implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.

On the other hand, Muhammad al-Bakhiti, a member of the Political Bureau of the Ansar Allah Houthi group, declined to confirm that coordination with the UAE-backed forces had taken place, but he assured Al Jazeera that the Houthis are open to any understandings to reduce losses, describing what happened as a positive step.

The withdrawal was also surprising even for the United Nations Mission, which denied coordination with it, and called for ensuring the safety of civilians in the areas that witnessed these transformations.

The following are the most prominent areas from which the UAE-backed forces withdrew, and the Ansar Allah Houthi group took control of them:

  • Locations east and north-east of the coastal city of Al-Hodeidah, as well as areas south of the city on the outskirts of Al-Hodeidah International Airport.
  • Al-Durayhimi district, in addition to the coastal strip of the “Beit Al-Faqih” district, as well as the Tuhayta district.
  • A private source confirmed to Al Jazeera that the UAE-backed forces were supposed not to withdraw from the city of “Tuhayta”, but due to the lack of complete coordination and confusion, its fighters retreated, and the Houthis took control of it immediately.
  • The Houthis advanced to Hodeidah, while the UAE-backed “joint forces” have now retreated in the “Al-Hima” port in the south to the Khokha district, and areas in the Hays district, as well as the areas south of these two districts of Taiz governorate.

In a related context, a Yemeni source said that at least 6 soldiers were wounded as a result of a booby-trapped drone attack carried out by the Houthis on the “Al-Hayma” port in the Al-Tuhayta district of the Hodeidah governorate.

He added that the attack comes as an attempt by the Houthis to advance further after their deployment in the areas from which the UAE-backed forces withdrew suddenly in Hodeidah Governorate during the past two days.

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