Yemen to Start 72-Hour Temporary Cease-Fire

Temporary move is the latest bid to end more than 18 months of war

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, middle, and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed make a joint statement on the situation in Syria at Lancaster House on Sunday, calling for an immediate cease-fire.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, middle, and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed make a joint statement on the situation in Syria at Lancaster House on Sunday, calling for an immediate cease-fire.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
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Oct. 18, 2016 2:41 a.m. ET

DUBAI—A temporary cease-fire will take effect in Yemen Wednesday night, the United Nations’ envoy for the country said, the latest bid to end more than 18 months of war there.

The cease-fire is set to start just before midnight and last 72 hours, the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said in a statement Monday. It was subject to renewal, he said.

Yemen’s conflict, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 10,000 people, pits the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the country’s Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels.

The Houthis took over the capital, San’a, in 2014 and remain in control there. Saudi Arabia, the region’s main Sunni Muslim power, assembled a military coalition in March last year to support Mr. Hadi and defeat the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia and its allies see the Houthis as proxies of regional rival Iran, which has voiced political support for the rebels. The U.S. and other western navies have seized Iranian weapons shipments allegedly bound for the Houthis. Iran has denied any such shipments.

The new cease-fire follows growing international pressure for a return to diplomacy in the wake of an Oct. 8 coalition strike that killed 142 people at a funeral hall in San’a. The attack was widely condemned for its high civilian toll, and an investigatory body affiliated with the coalition determined that it wrongly targeted the funeral, calling for victims’ families to be compensated.

Further raising the stakes in the conflict, the U.S. said barrages of apparent Houthi missiles were fired at least twice at an American destroyer patrolling in international waters off Yemen’s western coast in recent days. While none of the missiles hit the destroyer, the U.S. responded Thursday by striking and destroying three radar sites along Yemen’s coast.

A third possible Houthi rocket attack Saturday on the destroyer, the USS Mason, is still under investigation.

Mr. Ahmed said he had received assurances from all parties to the conflict of their commitment to the truce, which would allow for more humanitarian aid deliveries and potentially open the way to a resumption of peace talks.

If it goes ahead as planned, the cease-fire would be the first significant lull in fighting since an extended round of talks in Kuwait broke down in August. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday called for an immediate cease-fire.

The Saudi-led coalition has carried out airstrikes and a ground campaign against the rebels since last March, but its efforts have failed to push them from the capital. Negotiations for a political solution to the conflict have been halting, with numerous rounds of failed negotiations in Switzerland and Kuwait since last year.

The Arab world’s poorest country before the conflict, Yemen has since slid into a state of humanitarian crisis. Ten of its 22 provinces are on the brink of famine, according to the World Food Program.

Write to Asa Fitch at asa.fitch@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/yemen-to-start-72-hour-cease-fire-1476772874

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