Troop withdrawal in Yemen's Hodeidah could start Tuesday, Wednesday: UN envoy Griffiths

 A redeployment of forces in Yemen's Hodeidah by the warring parties could start "possibly even today or tomorrow," UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Tuesday. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 19 February 2019
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Troop withdrawal in Yemen's Hodeidah could start Tuesday, Wednesday: UN envoy Griffiths

  • The Iranian-backed Houthi movement and Arab coalition agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7
  • The UN said on Sunday that the parties had reached agreement on phase one of a troop redeployment

LONDON: A redeployment of forces in Yemen's Hodeidah by the warring parties could start "possibly even today or tomorrow," United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed government agreed at talks in Sweden in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from the Red Sea city under a truce aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year war.

But the pact stalled over control of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions facing famine. After weeks of diplomacy, the United Nations said on Sunday the parties had reached agreement on phase one of a troop redeployment.

"With the beginning, possibly even today or tomorrow, of the implementation of that part of the Hodeidah agreement we now have the opportunity to move from the promise made in Sweden to hope now for Yemen," Griffiths told the 15-member council.

Griffiths said phase one of the redeployment of forces would "facilitate humanitarian access to the Red Sea Mills."

The World Food Programme grain stores at the Red Sea Mills are enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month and have been inaccessible for more than five months.

Griffiths urged the parties to agree on the details of the second phase of troop withdrawals, which entails full redeployment of both parties' forces in Hodeidah province.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 23 May 2019
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.