Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Houthis thwart UN plan to reopen grain storage in Hodeidah

The militia denied access to a World Food Programme team despite an agreement

A team of the UN and the World Food Programme visit mills in Hodeidah, Yemen, 26 February 2019. EPA
A team of the UN and the World Food Programme visit mills in Hodeidah, Yemen, 26 February 2019. EPA

The Houthi rebels on Tuesday stopped a team from the World Food Programme and 89 Red Sea Mills staff from reaching the grain storage east of Hodeidah.

Col Wathah Al Dubaish, a spokesman for the joint forces in Hodeidah, accompanied the team and staff to the mills.

Col Al Dubaish told The National that the Houthis blocked the road, shot rounds over the programme's convoy and held staff for more than five hours.

“The Houthis mistreated the staff of the mills," he said.

"They beat dozens of them and detained most of them, looting their vehicles and equipment despite the agreement they signed with the head of the Redeployment and Co-ordination Committee and the government team."

The negotiating team that represents the Yemeni government in the Redeployment and Co-ordination Committee in Hodeidah agreed to sign the deal to reopen the mills for humanitarian work.

“The UN-sponsored withdrawal agreement hasn’t been implemented so far because of the Houthis," Col Al Dubaish said. "We were shocked to see them thwart the deal and prevent the team from reaching the mills.

The Red Sea Mills are in the eastern outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah.

They kept operating during the war, providing millions of starving people in the Houthi-held provinces of Yemen with food.

The UN agency used the mills to store tonnes of wheat before the international organisation lost access to them as they were caught in clashes in September 2018.

About 15,000 tonnes of its wheat was left after the clashes flared up, but the UN agency only gained access at the end of February 2019.

Col Wathah Al Dubaish said back then that they found some of the wheat had rotted.

Updated: April 3, 2019 02:10 AM