Fight­ing mars Ye­men cease­fire

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

SANAA:

Ye­men rebels and loy­al­ist forces bat­tled yes­ter­day around third city Taez even as a 48-hour cease­fire an­nounced by a Saudi-led coali­tion fight­ing the in­sur­gents be­gan fol­low­ing US pres­sure. A few hours af­ter the cease­fire took ef­fect at midday (0900 GMT), fight­ing still raged around the flash­point south­west­ern city, where vi­o­lence has killed dozens this week, de­spite clashes sub­sid­ing on sev­eral fronts.

Clashes were heav­i­est in the town of Salo south­east of Taez, mil­i­tary sources said, re­port­ing ca­su­al­ties on both sides. In­side Taez it­self, rebel rocket fire into a res­i­den­tial dis­trict killed one civil­ian and wounded two, the sources added. In­ter­mit­tent fight­ing was also re­ported in Nahm near the cap­i­tal Sanaa, in Shabwa in the south and Sar­wah to the east.

The cease­fire comes af­ter a push by US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry who this week met rebel rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Oman and also urged the gov­ern­ment to come on board. At first the gov­ern­ment, which has deep reser­va­tions about a UN peace blue­print it be­lieves un­der­mines its au­thor­ity, re­jected the peace bid be­fore later agree­ing to ob­serve it. Ye­men’s gov­ern­ment has come un­der huge pres­sure to back down in the face of an in­ter­na­tional out­cry over the mount­ing civil­ian death toll from 20 months of con­flict. “There are in­ter­na­tional pres­sures to ob­serve a cease­fire and to re­sume (peace) ne­go­ti­a­tions,” a source close to the pres­i­dency told AFP, re­quest­ing anonymity.

The 48-hour truce could be ex­tended if the rebels hold fire and al­low aid into be­sieged loy­al­ist en­claves, said a coali­tion state­ment car­ried by the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency. “We re­ally hope that the war will end. All Ye­me­nis are very tired of the con­flict,” said Khaled AlWaysi, a res­i­dent of Sanaa. An­other res­i­dent, Sadeq Juhaifi, said: “We want one of the par­ties to be coura­geous enough to an­nounce longterm peace, not just a two or one-day cease­fire.”

AFP re­ceived a copy of an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment is­sued by the de­fense min­istry or­der­ing all pro-gov­ern­ment forces to abide by the cease­fire, re­port vi­o­la­tions, and re­serve the right to re­spond to any rebel breaches. A spokesman for forces al­lied to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Bri­gadier Gen­eral Sharaf Luq­man, con­firmed that they would also 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 of the ac­cord signed Mon­day with Kerry.

Six pre­vi­ous at­tempts to clinch a cease­fire have foundered, the lat­est in Oc­to­ber. All those truces were “use­less”, said Sanaa res­i­dent Ab­dul­lah Has­san. “We need a real truce, not one which is just for media con­sump­tion,” added the 29-year-old. 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”.

Ex­iled Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi has re­jected a UN pro­posal to step down while his gov­ern­ment forms a unity ad­min­is­tra­tion with the rebels. In an ap­par­ent bid to prove his le­git­i­macy, the coali­tion un­der­lined that the cease­fire came at Hadi’s re­quest. The pres­i­dent asked Saudi King Sal­man for the pause “in re­sponse to UN and in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to bring peace to Ye­men” and al­low aid de­liv­er­ies, its state­ment said. Mil­lions of civil­ians, many of whom have fled their homes, des­per­ately need hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. The coali­tion has en­forced an air and sea block­ade on rebel-held ar­eas through­out its in­ter­ven­tion. That will re­main in place for the du­ra­tion of the cease­fire, it said.

De­spite the sup­port of coali­tion fire­power, the rebels still con­trol Sanaa and most of the north­ern and cen­tral high­lands. Some towns held by loy­al­ist gar­risons are un­der rebel siege, in­clud­ing Taez. The coali­tion in­sisted that aid must be al­lowed into those ar­eas for the cease­fire to be ex­tended. It also de­manded that the rebels send rep­re­sen­ta­tives to a mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee pro­vided for un­der a pre­vi­ous, abortive cease­fire. That com­mit­tee is to meet just across the border in Saudi Ara­bia.

— AFP

SANAA: A Ye­meni youth rides his bi­cy­cle at a mar­ket yes­ter­day in the cap­i­tal as a 48-hour cease­fire be­gan.

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