UN Yemen envoy: Hodeidah troop redeployment slow but will happen

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Martin Griffiths said the cease-fire had reduced casualties in Hodeidah. (AFP file photo)
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Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi deputy defense minister, arrives at the Department of State for a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Washington, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Salman is the son of Saudi Arabia's King Salman and brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Updated 28 March 2019

UN Yemen envoy: Hodeidah troop redeployment slow but will happen

  • Martin Griffiths says the cease-fire in the key port is holding
  •  Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discusses the cease-fire with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

RIYADH: The UN envoy to Yemen said on Thursday the redeployment of rival factions in the key port city of Hodeidah is "slow" but will happen.

Martin Griffiths made the comments as Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman discussed the Yemen cease-fire deal with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington.

Prince Khalid and Pompeo "agreed on the need for parties to adhere to the agreement made in Sweden," the US State Department said. Pompeo expressed his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s continued support for Griffiths’ efforts "to advance the political process in Yemen."

The deal between the Yemen government and Houthi militants was signed in the Swedish capital in December, and while leading to a reduction in hostilities in the city, it has since stalled.

Griffiths told The Associated Press that the cease-fire in the key port held seized by the militants near the start of the conflict is holding.

"As I've been reminded recently there are 50 percent fewer civilian casualties in Hodeidah since the cease-fire came into account than in the previous three months," Griffiths said. "So that's quite a change and that's good for the people of Hodeida, but we need to go further. We need to quickly see those redeployments happening."

Griffiths said the two sides are meeting daily to finalize details of the first redeployment from the Hodeidah port and two smaller ports. That will be followed by a second phase in which heavy weapons and ground forces will be removed from the city, he said.

Griffiths said if the first phase is successful, the ensuing demilitarization phase will be much easier. "Yes, it's slow, we shouldn't be surprised, but we need to keep the pressure up."
Griffiths told the Security Council last month that he is "optimistic" the cease-fire will hold and the redeployments will take place.

Hodeidah is the main entry point for aid to Yemen, where nearly four years of war has spawned the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The war in Yemen started in 2014 when Houthi rebels swept the northern part of the country and forced the internationally recognized government to flee before seeking military intervention by an Arab coalition that inludes Saudi Arabia.

Griffiths warned that the alternative to peace is "unthinkable" humanitarian disasters.

"It is the possibility of famine, the increasing cholera that we are now seeing, and a massive humanitarian aid program which barely keeps pace with the growing needs of the Yemeni people," he said. "We can't allow that to replace peace in Yemen."

Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with nearly two thirds of its people in need of some sort of aid and 3 million displaced. Thousands have died of malnutrition, preventable diseases and epidemics.

Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 36 min 3 sec ago

Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.