Yemen calm as ceasefire takes hold
SANAA – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoYemen saw a rare respite from fighting on Nov. 20, the second day of a 48-hour cease-fire that followed a U.S. push to halt a conflict that has wrought devastation and killed thousands.
An AFP correspondent in Sanaa said there had not been any Saudi-led air strikes in the rebel-held capital since the cease-fire took effect, and officials in Taez said it was also calm in the flashpoint southwestern city.
The cease-fire comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met rebel representatives in Oman and urged the internationally recognized government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to come on board.
The conflict erupted in 2014, when the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their allies of renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh overran Sanaa and other parts of Yemen.
It escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia -- the arch-foe of Iran -- launched a military campaign to drive back the rebels, and the U.N. says more than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded since.
The cease-fire was taking hold in Sanaa despite intermittent fighting reported in Nahm, near the capital, in the hours after it began at midday on Nov. 19.
Taez was also calm, according to a military official who only spoke of a “limited exchange of fire” after dozens were killed during battles in the city this week.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition’s air defenses destroyed three ballistic missiles the rebels fired at dawn at Marib province, east of Sanaa, a military official said.
Coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Assiri accused the Huthis of 180 violations in the first 10 hours of the ceasefire.
He said 150 breaches took place in Yemen, while 30 others were along the northern border with Saudi Arabia, according to Al-Jazeera news network.
At first Hadi’s government rejected the peace bid, saying it had not been consulted, while the Huthis and Saleh declared their commitment to it.
But the government came under huge pressure to back down in the face of an international outcry over the mounting civilian death toll.
The Huthis yesterday welcomed “all efforts to end the aggression” but denounced the Saudi side for escalations “during the so-called cease-fire” according to the rebel-controlled sabanews.net website.