Ye­men cease-fire proves short-lived

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY ALI AL- MU­JA­HED AND HUGH NAY­LOR hugh.nay­lor@wash­ Nay­lor re­ported from Beirut.

sanaa, ye­men — A U.N. plan for tem­po­rar­ily halt­ing the fight­ing in Ye­men to bring in des­per­ately needed hu­man­i­tar­ian aid got off to a shaky start, with clashes and airstrikes re­ported early Satur­day.

The week-long pause to avert what the United Na­tions and aid agen­cies warn is a loom­ing famine in the im­pov­er­ished Ara­bian Penin­sula coun­try was to start just be­fore mid­night Fri­day.

But in the hours af­ter mid­night, res­i­dents re­ported that Houthi rebels fired mor­tar rounds and Katyusha rock­ets at the south­ern port city of Aden. Res­i­dents also said that a coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia con­tin­ued car­ry­ing out airstrikes early Satur­day against the rebels and al­lied fight­ers in the cap­i­tal, Sanaa, as well as in the cities of Taiz and Aden.

On Thurs­day, a spokesman for U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Kimoon said the war­ring par­ties had sig­naled back­ing for an “un­con­di­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian pause” in a con­flict that es­ca­lated when the Saudi-led coali­tion be­gan airstrikes in March in sup­port of Ye­men’s em­bat­tled pres­i­dent.

How­ever, a spokesman for the coali­tion de­nied Satur­day that it had agreed to the U.N. pro­posal. Brig. Gen. Ah­mad Asseri said the coali­tion did not re­ceive in­struc­tions from the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi, which the Houthis top­pled in Fe­bru­ary, to halt the strikes.

Hadi and the rest of his cab­i­net op­er­ate from ex­ile in Saudi Ara­bia and sup­port the airstrikes. The United Na­tions and aid agen­cies say that more than 3,000 peo­ple have been killed and more than a mil­lion dis­placed in Ye­men since the Saudi cam­paign be­gan.

Speak­ing by tele­phone, Asseri said the United Na­tions’ pro­posed pause lacked the “min­i­mum guar­an­tees” sought by Hadi’s gov­ern­ment, whose of­fi­cials were not avail­able to com­ment. Asseri said the plan did not con­tain “mech­a­nisms to im­ple­ment the pause.”

Mo­hammed al-Bukhaiti, a se­nior Houthi of­fi­cial, ac­cused Saudi Ara­bia of “vi­o­lat­ing” the terms of the tem­po­rary pause. Still, by Satur­day af­ter­noon, res­i­dents of Sanaa and Taiz re­ported that fight­ing had all but stopped. That raised hopes that im­ports of food and fuel, which have been se­verely re­stricted by an air and naval block­ade im­posed by the Saudi coali­tion, would be al­lowed.

“The shelling con­tin­ued un­til 10:30 a.m., but since then the sit­u­a­tion has been calm,” said Shi­hab al-Kha­teeb, 39, an ac­coun­tant from Taiz.

Yassin Fuad, 33, who teaches English in Sanaa, said there “has been calm and there haven’t been any airstrikes since early morn­ing.”

Aid groups were pre­par­ing Satur­day to de­liver food and med­i­cal sup­plies through­out Ye­men to al­le­vi­ate a cri­sis that the United Na­tions de­clared a level-3hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gency, the high­est on its scale. More than 20 mil­lion peo­ple need food and med­i­cal aid, and more than 9 mil­lion have lit­tle or no ac­cess to wa­ter, the United Na­tions re­ports.

Abeer Etefa, a spokes­woman for the World Food Pro­gram, said that the U.N. agency had or­ga­nized three aid ships and that they were seek­ing to dock at Aden’s port. The agency was still wait­ing for clear­ances, she said, speak­ing by tele­phone.

Etefa added that in the past two weeks, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has been un­able to de­liver about 50,000 tons of food and fuel to badly af­fected ar­eas be­cause of dam­age to bridges and prob­lems at check­points run by war­ring par­ties.

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