CAIRO — The Saudi-led military coalition declared a 48-hour ceasefire in Yemen on Saturday, on the condition that Shiite rebels abide by it and allow humanitarian assistance into besieged cities, particularly the city of Taiz.
© Ahmad al-Basha, AFP | A Yemeni tribesman supporting forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi holds a position in the city of Taez on November 16, 2016.
However, minutes after it went into effect, activists in Taiz said that rebel shelling continued in the city while a rebel-affiliated military spokesman said that there was no halt of fighting.
Col. Sharaf Loqman, a military spokesman, told The Associated Press that the fighting hasn’t stopped at any of the front-lines. He said that the rebels support a full cessation of hostilities, but that the reality at the moment is, “all parties are engaged in fighting.”
The Saudi news agency SPA carried a statement from the coalition that said the truce would take effect at 12 p.m. Yemeni time on Saturday and that it could be renewed. The coalition warned the rebels, known as Houthis, against any sort of military movement.
The ceasefire comes at a time that forces loyal to the Saudi-backed, internationally-recognized government have made advances in Taiz, which has been besieged by the rebels for the past year.
The coalition has demanded that the Houthis send their representatives to meet with a de-escalation committee based in a southern Saudi city, in order to make security and military arrangements to end rebel control over several cities in the north — including the capital, Sanaa.
While the coalition stressed that the ceasefire is aimed at paving the way for peace, it didn’t elaborate on whether it’s accepting the U.N.-brokered peace plan — which sidelines President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and gives the rebels a share of power.
The truce also comes two days after an earlier plan for a U.S.-brokered ceasefire faltered. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Houthi representatives in Oman this week, set Nov. 17 as the beginning of the ceasefire. The plan was immediately rejected by Hadi’s government, which accused Kerry of striking a unilateral deal. The coalition made no comment on Kerry’s announcement.
The conflict in Yemen has divided the country into rival regions with the northern — predominated by Shiites — under rebel control while the south — mostly Sunnis — is under the coalition’s control.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 at the request of Hadi, who was forced to flee the country when the Houthis joined ranks with forces loyal to the ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and descended from their northern enclave — seizing the capital and pushing southward.
The coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen, and the airstrikes along with ground fighting have left over 4,000 civilians dead and tens of thousands wounded. The conflict has forced 3 million people to flee their homes and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.
Saudi-led coalition begins 48-hour truce in Yemen
Deal reached that Saudi Arabia says could be extended if Houthi rebels adhere to it.
A Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government against Houthi rebels has declared a 48-hour ceasefire that began on Saturday, according to local media.
“It has been decided to begin a 48-hour ceasefire from 12:00 noon in Yemen’s timing (09:00 GMT) on Saturday,” a coalition statement carried by Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency said, adding that the truce could be renewed if Houthi fighters and their allies abided by it and allowed aid into besieged cities.
The coalition move came after a request for a ceasefire by Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, himself based in Riyadh, to Saudi King Salman, the statement said.
“Coalition forces will abide by the ceasefire,” it said, but warned that should the rebels or troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh make any military moves in the area, the coalition would respond.
The naval and air “blockade” would also remain in place and surveillance jets would continue to fly over Yemen, it added.
The coalition has been supporting forces loyal to Hadi’s government since March 2015.
A spokesman for forces allied to the Houthi rebels, Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman, confirmed that they would abide by the ceasefire.
“Based on the agreement reached in Muscat, we affirm our commitment to the ceasefire if the other party respects it,” Luqman said, referring to the accord signed with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the Omani capital on Monday.
The US chief diplomat had said after meeting with Houthi negotiators in Oman that they were ready to observe the ceasefire plan.
Hadi’s government was reluctant to accept the ceasefire plan, but finally agreed to the peace push.
UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged all parties “to encourage full respect for the cessation of hostilities and to ensure that it leads to a permanent and lasting end to the conflict.”
Since Thursday, more than 50 people have been killed in clashes between the rebels and loyalists on the outskirts of the third biggest city Taez, medical and military sources said.
Six attempts to clinch a ceasefire in Yemen have foundered, including a three-day October truce that fell apart as soon as it went into force. It was designed to allow aid deliveries to millions of homeless and hungry Yemenis.
“There has been severe and heavy clashes on different fronts in Yemen recently, now with this ceasefire, there will be a decerase in the number of air strikes and heavy clashes but at the same time, inside the country, we are going to see the same heavy clashes going on despite the announcement of the ceasefire by the Saudi-led coalition,” Baaran Shiban, a London-based human rights worker, told Al Jazeera.
“Usually a ceasefire is supposed to be for humanitarian aids and to have access for us to areas suffered most by the clashes, but we are not sure whether this truce will hold,” Shiban said.
The United Nations says more than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in Yemen since anti-Houthi campaign began its bombing campaign last year.
Source: Al Jazeera News And Agencies
Tags: anti-Houthi campaign, brink of famine, ceasefire in Yemen, Hadi, Houthis, ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led military coalition, Shiite rebels, U.N.-brokered peace plan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Yemen