Yemen conflict: Saudi Arabia agrees to ceasefire after a year of bombardment

Officials say the Saudi-led coalition would retalitate to any aggression during the cessation of hostilities

Smoke rises after a Saudi-led airstrike hits an army base in Sanaa, Yemen. AP
Smoke rises after a Saudi-led airstrike hits an army base in Sanaa, Yemen. AP

The Saudi-led coalition which has been bombing Yemen for over a year has said it will adhere to a cease fire agreement.

The cessation of hostilities with Houthi rebels is due to come into effect from midnight on Sunday.

However, Saudi security forces have said they will retaliate to any breach of the agreement.

The move comes in anticipation of United Nations brokered peace talks scheduled for 18 April in Kuwait.  Talks were planned for January but were called off after negotiations broke down.

The UN hopes the cessation in hostilities will lead to a more concrete, formal ceasefire, allowing for the development of confidence-building measures.

In the capital Sanaa, residents said they desperately wanted this attempt at peace to succeed after two rounds of talks failed last year.

“I am tired of the fighting, the destruction, everything,” said Hussein Ali, a 57-year-old government employee.

“The situation is very difficult for people without work, without electricity, without water, and with the fear that, at any moment, bombardment could kill those dear to us.”

Amal Ahmed, a 16-year-old student said: “I hope that when I wake up in the morning, the war has stopped and I can go to school, my classmates too, without being afraid of raids and death.

Leaders in the Saudi-coalition are also hoping for a successful outcome.

“We hope the other parties, Houthi militias and those with them, abide by this truce,” said Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition, to Saudi broadcasteral-Arabiya.

“The alliance retains the right to respond if breaches occur in the coming days.  We hope to succeed and let’s be optimistic that the coming days will be positive.”

The cease fire commitment comes as fighting in Yemen intensified on Sunday.  Just hours before the cease-fire was to go into effect, Yemeni security officials said there were clashes between the Shia Houthi rebels and forces allied with the internationally recognized government, led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The officials said Sunday’s clashes took place in several areas, including the provinces of Jawf, Sanaa, and Taiz, where the Houthis have gained ground despite Saudi-led airstrikes.

The Saudi-led coalition has been supporting President Hadi against the Houthi rebels, in a war that is seen by many as a proxy conflict between the regional Sunni and Shia powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Saudi-led coalition, comprised of mostly Arab countries, launched its campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, several months after the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and forced the internationally-backed government into exile.

Since then, more than 6,200 people in Yemen have been killed. Sporadic cross-border shelling has also killed and wounded civilians in Saudi Arabia.

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