Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels accepted a proposal by Saudi Arabia to halt fighting in the country for five days for humanitarian assistance, Saba news agency said.
The Houthis will respond to any violations of the truce, Saba reported, citing Sharf Ghalib Luqman, the spokesman for units of Yemen’s armed forces controlled by the rebels. Saudi Foreign Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced the proposed cease-fire on Friday in Paris with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Hostilities are due to halt Tuesday at 11 p.m..
The Saudis began bombing in late March in an effort to restore the government of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, whom the Houthis had driven from power. While the U.S. has expressed support for the Saudi-led air campaign, the strikes haven’t succeeded in rolling back gains by the rebels, who say they have been marginalized by the government for decades. More than 650 civilians have died amid the fighting, according to the United Nations.
As the Houthis accepted the proposal, the coalition bombed the residence of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a. Saleh, who is an ally of the Houthis, said on his Facebook page that he wasn’t injured and called for dialogue.
After al-Jubeir announced Thursday in Riyadh plans for a cease-fire, the coalition stepped up its strikes on the rebels, subjecting the Houthi stronghold of Saada in north Yemen and surrounding villages to heavy bombardment late Friday. Saudi television had urged civilians in Saada and nearby areas to stay clear of potential targets, and Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi officer and coalition spokesman, warned of imminent strikes.
Humanitarian groups have criticized the decision by the Saudi-led coalition to escalate its strikes.
“The targeting of an entire governorate will put countless civilians at risk,” Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, said in statement. “Many civilians are effectively trapped in Saada as they are unable to access transport because of the fuel shortage.”
In Paris, Kerry warned that Yemen risks a “humanitarian catastrophe.” He said that if the cease-fire holds, it will create “the possibility of a longer period of time for the political process to help resolve these differences.”
Fuel and Supplies
Fuel and assistance started to reach Yemen over the weekend. A UN-charted ship docked Saturday in Hodeidah with 300,000 liters of fuel and supplies, the World Food Programme said Saturday in statement on its website. A second vessel was expected to arrive on Sunday with 120,000 liters of fuel, the programme said.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies accuse Iran of supporting the Shiite Yemeni rebels with weapons and money as the Islamic Republic seeks to expand its influence in the region. Iran denies the charge, and Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about the degree of Iranian involvement.
Anwar Gargash, U.A.E. minister of state for foreign affairs, said the country won’t accept the presence of Hezbollah-like militias in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, the country’s state-run WAM news agency reported, citing remarks he gave in interview with Sky News Arabia to be aired Sunday.