AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen has suspended participation in the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in the western province of Hodeida after a Houthi sniper gunned down a government soldier, the government said in a statement carried on the official Saba news agency on Wednesday.
The government said it had decided to boycott the committee’s meetings in protest against an escalation in Houthi attacks against government observers, the Houthis’ exploitation of the truce in Hodeida to mobilize forces on other battlefields, and restriction of the movements of the UN monitoring team.
The RCC was established under the Stockholm Agreement and assigned to monitor the redeployment of forces in Hodeida and to supervise the clearance of land mines from Hodeida’s seaports.
On Wednesday, a Houthi gunman shot a member of the government team that monitors the truce, despite having been notified about his movement.
“The Houthi militia gunned down a soldier at the fifth observation post in spite of having information that the soldier was moving to the post,” Baha Khalefa, one of 10 government soldiers deployed at the joint observation posts, told Arab News.
Khalefa said that he and his fellow soldiers had pulled out of the posts to the last government-controlled areas in Hodeida. Government forces were subsequently placed on high alert in anticipation of an escalation of attacks by the Houthis in Hodeida.
“We will respond appropriately to any attack by the militia,” Khalefa said.
Under the Stockholm Agreement, the Iran-backed Houthis are obliged to defuse land mines and to withdraw from Hodeida’s seaports and open roads from and to the city in exchange for the Yemeni government halting a major military offensive that had reached Hodeida city.
Local rights groups say that more than 500 civilians have been killed in Hodeida by Houthi fire since December 2018.
On Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Musleh Aydha, the head of the government’s RCC team, said that the death of the Yemeni soldier threatens to end the Stockholm Agreement and see Hodeida descend into further violence.
State media outlets quoted Gen. Aydha as saying that government observers have been repeatedly targeted by Houthi fire for months and threatening a military response to Houthi attacks.
Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammer Al-Eryani urged the UN to reassess its mission in Hodeida as the mission as the Houthis have failed to put into place the security arrangements laid out in the Stockholm Agreement.
“The UN mission has failed to force the Houthis to implement its obligations (under the Stockholm Agreement) — withdrawal from Hodeida ports and city and stop cease-fire breaches,” the minister wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Yemen, fighting continued on Thursday in the northern province of Jawf, Marib’s Serwah and near Sana’a. In Jawf, Yemen’s army pushed deeper into Khab and Sha’af, the largest district in the province, after expelling Houthis from areas near the Saudi border, and reopened a strategic road between Jawf and Marib.
Government officials say that the Houthis, who seized control of Jawf’s capital last week, have continued looting government offices in Hazem city and humanitarian aid, including generators, from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.