ADEN, Yemen

Saudi Arabian forces have withdrawn from security points in Socotra Island’s provincial center of Hadibu as part of a de-escalation agreement signed with the United Arab Emirates-backed Southern Transition Council (STC), a source told Anadolu Agency on Thursday. 

The decision to withdraw was made abruptly, according to the local authority, who asked not to be named.

The takeover process began simultaneously with the withdrawal of armed militias of the STC and Yemeni government forces from positions following clashes.

Last week, the STC declared self-governance and a state of emergency in the temporary capital of Aden and southern provinces, which caused tensions in Socotra as well as other provinces in the south.

The Yemeni government and provinces of Hadhramaut, Shabwa, al-Mahra, Abyan and the administration of Socotra have rejected the STC’s move, which has also drawn widespread international criticism.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in March 2015 after Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sana’a and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

Five years of conflict have left thousands of civilians dead and nearly 3.7 million internally displaced, according to the UN.

The impact on the country’s infrastructure has been devastating, with major overland routes and airports severely damaged.

Nearly half of Yemen’s population of around 30 million are in need of immediate assistance to sustain or save their lives.

The World Food Programme says that despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, at least 15.9 million people wake up hungry every day.

It is estimated that in the absence of food assistance, this number will rise to 20 million.

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