Deadly clashes be­fore lat­est Ye­men cease­fire

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Heavy fight­ing rocked Ye­men hours be­fore a UN-bro­kered cease­fire was due to be­gin yes­ter­day, as war­ring par­ties come un­der mount­ing pres­sure to end a con­flict that has raged for more than two years. The truce will be the sixth at­tempt to end the blood­shed since a Saudi-led Arab coali­tion in­ter­vened in March 2015 to sup­port the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi af­ter rebels over­ran much of Ye­men. Civil­ians have paid the high­est price in a coun­try that was al­ready the Ara­bian penin­sula’s poor­est.

Al­most 6,900 have been killed-more than half of them civil­ians-while an­other three mil­lion are dis­placed and mil­lions more need food aid. A United Na­tions re­port said air strikes by the coali­tion were sus­pected of caus­ing around half of all civil­ian deaths, while rebel-af­fil­i­ated groups were responsible for about a quar­ter. The UN spe­cial en­voy for Ye­men, Is­mail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on Sun­day an­nounced the truce from 23:59 (2059 GMT) for an ini­tial three days, sub­ject to re­newal. But clashes in­volv­ing heavy ar­tillery and air raids killed at least five peo­ple across the coun­try yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing fight­ing near the Saudi border and around the cap­i­tal Sanaa, mil­i­tary sources said.

The last cease­fire at­tempt be­gan in April along­side UN-bro­kered peace talks in Kuwait but both the rebels and the coali­tion ac­cused each other of breaches. Af­ter peace talks col­lapsed in Au­gust, fight­ing es­ca­lated un­til an Oc­to­ber 8 coali­tion air strike which the UN said killed more than 140 peo­ple and wounded at least 525 at a fu­neral in Sanaa. The United States an­nounced an “im­me­di­ate re­view” of its in­tel­li­gence and re­fu­el­ing as­sis­tance to the coali­tion, whose in­ves­tiga­tive team then re­leased un­usu­ally quick find­ings from a probe of the in­ci­dent. It said a coali­tion air­craft “wrongly tar­geted” the fu­neral based on “in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion”. In an­other ma­jor de­vel­op­ment, the US Navy for the first time tar­geted Huthi rebels di­rectly. On Oc­to­ber 13 it hit radar sites which, the US said, were in­volved in mis­sile launches against a US war­ship and other ves­sels. Ye­men’s Houthi rebels are al­lied with mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces loyal to ex-pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh. They con­trol the cap­i­tal Sanaa and other ter­ri­tory but coali­tion-backed forces ear­lier pushed them back from the south­ern port of Aden and ad­ja­cent ar­eas. Both the rebels and pro-govern­ment forces have come un­der in­creased in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to si­lence their guns. On Tues­day, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry hailed the an­nounce­ment of the new truce and echoed an ur­gent plea from the UN en­voy for un­fet­tered hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess through­out Ye­men. “We ask the par­ties to take all steps nec­es­sary to ad­vance the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this ces­sa­tion, call on them to sus­tain it, and strongly en­cour­age its un­con­di­tional re­newal,” Kerry said.

Hadi’s govern­ment said it would agree to the truce if rebels also ad­hered to it, and also called for the in­sur­gents to mon­i­tor the cease­fire and end their siege of Ye­men’s third city, Taez. The rebels, in a state­ment on Tues­day night, ex­pressed readi­ness for a “last­ing cease­fire, com­pre­hen­sive and with­out con­di­tions”. Mil­i­tary sources how­ever said rebel po­si­tions in the north­ern Saada prov­ince were struck by coali­tion raids yes­ter­day. At least three strikes also hit a con­voy of rebel re­in­force­ments in Om­ran prov­ince, north of Sanaa.

At least two loy­al­ists were killed and 15 wounded in fight­ing near the Red Sea, in Ha­jja prov­ince, the sources said. And in Taez, at least two rebels and a pro-govern­ment fighter were killed dur­ing overnight fight­ing, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses and mil­i­tary sources. In spite of yes­ter­day’s vi­o­lence, Mustafa Alani, a se­nior adviser to the Gulf Re­search Cen­tre, said the prospects for peace were grow­ing. “I am more op­ti­mistic, ac­tu­ally, be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous one,” he told AFP. “At the same time, both par­ties in the con­flict are get­ting tired.

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