Humanitarian ceasefire starts in Yemen

Five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by Arab coalition between Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthis begins

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Hours after Saudi-led coalition planes struck Yemeni backed Shiite Houthi targets in Yemen, a five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by the Arab coalition started on Tuesday night, Reuters reported.

The agreement came into effect as UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed landed in Sanaa for talks on holding a peace conference with all sides.

"Absolutely. 11 o'clock,” coalition spokesman General Ahmed al-Assiri told AFP when asked when the ceasefire would begin.

"We are committed to respect this, but the coalition will continue its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance in case it has to respond, we will be ready to react to any violation of the pause. We are very clear. If they do not respect, we will continue,” al-Assiri added.

Backed by Iran, the Houthis took control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in September through an armed uprising, causing the government to flee to Aden after the group attempted to disband the Yemeni parliament in January.

Coalition jets conducted more than 130 sorties from Friday to Saturday after the coalition claimed that Houthis had crossed a red line by launching deadly mortar and rocket bombardments on the Saudi border.

Attacks by Houthi rebels killed 12 people in Saudi Arabia since last week.

“A cease-fire does not mean peace,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said, urging all parties in Yemen to return to the negotiating table to reach a political solution in order to end the conflict, which has claimed at least 828 civilian lives according to UN data.

The UN Security Council has emphasised the need for mutual talks for permanent peace and stability in Yemen, and called on all parties to attend without preconditions due to the "severe humanitarian consequences" of the ongoing violence concerning most Council members.

The Saudi-led coalition insists the negotiations should be held in the Gulf region while the UN and others urge for a neutral site. The UN is concerned that the dispute over the location will hinder peace efforts, AP has reported.

"All parties will need to transparently and reliably suspend military operations for the truce to hold,” a spokesperson for the UN Security Council said.

The Saudi-led coalition warns that whether the ceasefire holds depends on the actions of the Iran-backed Houthis.

On Tuesday, Iran's naval officials said Iran would direct warships to protect a cargo ship reportedly carrying emergency supplies to Yemen to be distributed during the truce.

The move provoked a swift reaction in Washington, with US Army Colonel Steve Warren saying that the US was monitoring the Iranian vessel.

According to AP, Iranian Armed Forces General Massoud Jazzayeri warned that “any attack on the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region. And this fire may not be put out or brought under control.”

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday that the total number of civilians killed since March 26 stood at 828, including 182 children and 91 women, with a further 1,500 wounded - which raised international concerns about a humanitarian disaster as locals are left homeless and without of food, medicine and fuel.

TRTWorld and agencies