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Yemenis, Houthis Agree to Pullback Forces from Key Port of Hodeidah


FILE - U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, center, arrives at Sana'a, Yemen, July 2, 2018.

Yemeni officials and Houthi rebels have agreed on phase 1 of a mutual pullback of forces from the key city of Hodeidah, U.N. negotiators announced Sunday.

Without giving any details of the agreement, U.N. officials call it important progress.

A pullback from Hodeidah was part of December's ceasefire between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-supported Yemeni forces.

The ceasefire has generally held despite numerous skirmishes.

Under phase 1, forces from both sides with withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, and Ras Issa.

Yemen
Yemen

U.N. negotiators say both sides have also agreed in principle to phase 2, which would be a total redeployment of all fighters in Hodeidah state.

The port of Hodeidah had been under rebel control. It is the Yemen's main entry point for desperately-needed food, medicine, and other aid for starving and suffering civilians. The fighting in the city and impasse have been making it nearly impossible for humanitarian workers to offload aid and get it to those who need it.

Yemeni officials have accused Iran of supplying arms to the rebels through the port -- a charge Iran has denied.

Houthis seized the Yemeni capital of Sana'a more than four years ago. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes aimed at the rebels have killed thousands and wiped out entire civilian neighborhoods.

Many experts see the fighting in Yemen as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

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