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Houthis: Yemen truce in Hodeida a victory for Iran-Allied Shiite group

The Iran-backed Shiite Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition on Thursday agreed on an immediate ceasefire in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, considered the lifeline of the country as the primary entry point for food and humanitarian aid.

Houthi fighters attacked a village in Hodeida hours after the warring parties announced the truce, which came following United Nations-brokered negotiations in Sweden.

Yemen has been at the epicenter of a proxy war between regional rivals Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for years now. A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels since March 2015.

Citing comments made by Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam in an interview with Al-Masirah TV shortly after the warring parties reached the ceasefire.

According to Iranian news outlets, Yemen’s Houthi movement says a truce agreed between the warring sides in Yemen is a victory for the war-torn country.

Under the truce, “the existing local authorities” in Houthi-held Hodeida “will be officially in charge of controlling the city and establishing security there under the supervision of the U.N.,” Abdulsalam reportedly declared.

The Houthis currently control Hodeida. About 75 percent of the humanitarian and commercial goods entering Yemen — where some 90 percent of Yemen’s food, fuel, and medicine comes from foreign countries — flows through Hodeida.

Hodeida is a strategically important city — Yemen’s largest and most vital port. It also reportedly allows Iranian military supplies and funding to reach the Houthi rebels.

On Friday, the Saudi-led coalition maintained that the Houthis must abandon Hodeida as a precondition for a peace deal.

“However, Abdulsalam strongly rejected the proposal, saying Hudaydah must be kept apart from the military conflict, and that a government should be formed first before all parties are disarmed,” according to news reports.

The Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis reportedly agreed to allow the U.N. to play a “leading role” in Hodeida.

According to the U.N., the war has resulted in a staggering 70 percent of the population in Yemen — 20 million people — facing acute food insecurity raging from minimal to catastrophic levels.