Calm in some parts of Yemen while violence elsewhere threatens truce
SANAA // The skies were silent over Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Sunday, the second day of a 48-hour ceasefire, while there was calm on the streets of Taez city in the south-west.
But despite a rare respite in some parts of the country, exchanges elsewhere threatened to derail the truce, with the Houthis launching Katyusha rockets into Saudi Arabia and residents reporting Saudi-led air strikes in a Yemeni border province.
The Saudi-led coalition’s air defences also destroyed three ballistic missiles that were fired by the rebels at Marib province, east of Sanaa, a military official said.
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Al Assiri accused the Houthis of 180 violations in the first 10 hours of the ceasefire.
He said 150 breaches had taken place in Yemen, while 30 others took place along the northern border with Saudi Arabia, according to Al Jazeera news network.
The coalition, which has been fighting the Houthis and their allies to restore president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to power, announced the truce on Saturday.
Just three days earlier, Mr Hadi’s government had rejected an announcement by US secretary of state John Kerry that the warring parties had agreed to an open-ended truce and to work toward the formation of a unity government.
Complaining that it was not consulted about the accord and that the agreement did not include demands for the Houthis to withdraw from territory, Mr Hadi’s government soon came under huge pressure to back down in the face of an international outcry over the mounting civilian death toll.
The Houthis, meanwhile, have cast doubt on the 48-hour truce, saying it was designed to undermine the agreement unveiled by Mr Kerry.
The ceasefire was taking hold in Sanaa on Sunday despite intermittent fighting reported in Nahm, near the capital, in the hours after the truce began at midday on Saturday.
Taez was also calm, according to a military official who only spoke of a “limited exchange of fire” after dozens were killed during battles in the city this week.
Relief agencies had been hoping that the ceasefire would enable aid to be delivered in areas that were previously inaccessible due to fighting.
Unicef said the ceasefire “offers new hope in a situation that is increasingly catastrophic for children”.
The conflict has killed well over 1,000 children and left millions more without access to basic care and at risk of imminent death, said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.
“We urge all parties to the ceasefire to allow unhindered humanitarian access for the delivery of life-saving supplies and services to all children in need.”
The coalition said the 48-hour ceasefire could be extended if the rebels hold fire and allow aid into besieged loyalist enclaves.
The conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis and allied renegade troops took over Sanaa before advancing on large parts of the country.
* Agence France-Presse, Reuters
Updated: November 20, 2016 04:00 AM