Houthi rebels in Yemen have accepted an offer for a 5 day cease fire from Saudi Arabia to facilitate the distribution of critical humanitarian supplies.
Neighboring Saudi Arabia had said on Friday that the ceasefire could begin on Tuesday if the Iranian-allied militia agreed to the pause, which would let in badly needed food and medical supplies.
Backed by the United States, a Saudi-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against the Houthis and army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26 with the aim of restoring the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“We will deal positively with any efforts, calls or serious and positive measures that would help lift the suffering and allow aid, supplies and ships to move safely to Yemen,” the Houthis said in a statement carried by state media Saba.Colonel Sharaf Luqman, spokesperson for the Houthi-allied army, said on Sunday Yemeni forces had agreed to the truce but would confront any attacks by Hadi loyalists on battlefronts which stretch across much of the impoverished country.
The Houthis say their campaign is aimed at defeating al Qaeda militants based in Yemen and accuse Hadi’s forces of supporting the group.
Arab planes bombed for a second day in a row the vast compound in the capital Sanaa which is home to ex-president Saleh, a key player in Yemen’s political crisis whose loyalists in the army fight on the Houthis’ side.
Saleh, a wily political operator, appeared unscathed and stood before the ruins of his political residence to taunt Saudi Arabia in remarks televised by his TV channel, Yemen Today.”It isn’t just me who is being targeted but every citizen … This aggression is cowardly. Go ahead and come by land, we’ll make a welcome for you,” Saleh, wearing sunglasses, said calmly.
Arab air strikes also hit weapons caches at a military base and a presidential palace in the southern city of Aden, the epicenter of fighting for more than six weeks, and southern fighters questioned the proposed pause.
“We doubt that the Houthis would stick to a ceasefire or truce because they have repeatedly broken political commitments they have made in the past,” a pro-Hadi militiaman in the city told Reuters.
The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it had dropped 55 tons of food and medical supplies over the city, in the largest such airdrop by a coalition country since the campaign began.
This is the second effort to halt the fighting to allow food and drugs to be distributed to civilians. The first cease fire ended almost immediately as some Houthi tribesmen didn’t recognize it. Also, the deal does not include al-Qaeda or ISIS fighters who are also battling the Iranian-backed Houthis.
Houthis said previously that they would not give up ground during the cease fire, so it is likely that some fighting will continue. Meanwhile, civilians are without food or shelter in many cases and neither side is taking any pains to keep them out of the line of fire.