Ye­men calm as trace takes hold

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SANAA: Ye­men saw a rare respite from fight­ing yes­ter­day, the sec­ond day of a 48-hour cease­fire that fol­lowed a US push to halt a con­flict that has wrought dev­as­ta­tion and killed thou­sands. An AFP cor­re­spon­dent in Sanaa said there had not been any Saudi-led air strikes in the rebel-held cap­i­tal since the cease­fire took ef­fect, and of­fi­cials in Taez said it was also calm in the flash­point south­west­ern city.

The cease­fire comes af­ter US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry met rebel rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Oman and urged the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi to come on board. The con­flict erupted in 2014, when the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their al­lies of rene­gade troops loyal to for­mer pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh over­ran Sanaa and other parts of Ye­men.

It es­ca­lated in March 2015 when Saudi Ara­bia-the arch­foe of Iran-launched a mil­i­tary cam­paign to drive back the rebels, and the UN says more than 7,000 peo­ple have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded since. The cease­fire was tak­ing hold in Sanaa de­spite in­ter­mit­tent fight­ing re­ported in Nahm, near the cap­i­tal, in the hours af­ter it be­gan at midday (0900 GMT) 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. Mean­while, the Saudi-led coali­tion’s air de­fenses de­stroyed three bal­lis­tic mis­siles the rebels fired at dawn at Marib prov­ince, east of Sanaa, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said.

Coali­tion spokesman Ma­jor Gen­eral Ahmed As­siri ac­cused the Huthis of 180 vi­o­la­tions in the first 10 hours of the cease­fire. He said 150 breaches took place in Ye­men, while 30 oth­ers were along the north­ern border with Saudi Ara­bia, ac­cord­ing to Al-Jazeera news net­work.

At first Hadi’s gov­ern­ment re­jected the peace bid, say­ing it had not been con­sulted, while the Huthis and Saleh de­clared their com­mit­ment to it. But the gov­ern­ment came un­der huge pres­sure to back down in the face of an in­ter­na­tional out­cry over the mount­ing civil­ian death toll.

The Huthis yes­ter­day wel­comed “all ef­forts to end the ag­gres­sion” but de­nounced the Saudi side for es­ca­la­tions “dur­ing the so-called cease­fire”, ac­cord­ing to the rebel-con­trolled sa­ web­site.

Re­lief agen­cies had been hop­ing the cease­fire would al­low de­liv­er­ing aid to the needy in ar­eas that were in­ac­ces­si­ble due to fight­ing. UN chil­dren’s aid agency 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. One and a half mil­lion chil­dren were suf­fer­ing from acute mal­nu­tri­tion, and thou­sands more were at risk from rapidly spread­ing cases of cholera and measles.

“For some time now we have been con­strained in our ef­forts to reach these chil­dren with ther­a­peu­tic food and med­i­cal sup­plies,” Lake said in a state­ment. “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. “It can­not be in any­one’s in­ter­est to en­dan­ger the fu­ture of Ye­men-its chil­dren,” he added. The 48-hour cease­fire could be ex­tended if the rebels hold fire and al­low aid into be­sieged loy­al­ist en­claves, the coali­tion said.

The spokesman of de­fected Ye­meni troops, Bri­gadier Gen­eral Sharaf Luq­man, said on Satur­day that they would also abide by the cease­fire. Six pre­vi­ous at­tempts to clinch a cease­fire have foundered, the lat­est in Oc­to­ber.

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”. 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. — AFP

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