Precarious truce starts in Yemen, fighting reported in Taez
ADEN – Reuters
Yemeni loyalist forces man a checkpoint on a road in the Mansoura residential district of Yemen's second city of Aden on April 9, 2016 - AFP photoA shaky truce took hold in Yemen on April 11 under a U.N.-backed effort to end a war that has made the country a front in Saudi Arabia’s region wide rivalry with Iran and caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The war-damaged capital Sanaa spent a quiet night, witnesses said, but residents said fighting flared in the southwestern city of Taez soon after the planned start of the cessation of hostilities at 2100 GMT on April 10.
The government, which backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, and its Iranian-allied Houthi adversaries blamed each other for the violence in Taez, a city that has been hit hard by the war.
The government accused Houthis of using heavy artillery within moments of the start of the truce, while the Houthis said coalition warplanes staged three strikes on the city.
“People are no longer able to live because of the war that destroyed everything,” said Shawqi Abdullah, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Sanaa, which lies in the north of the country.
“We had a calm night with no planes flying or fear of bombs. And we hope the calm will continue and the war ends.”
The main southern port city of Aden, where coalition fighters expelled Houthi forces in July, was also quiet.
A general loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said the cease-fire was largely holding on April 11 despite some violations by rebel fighters.
“The truce has not collapsed and we hope the [Houthi] rebels end their attacks and respect the cease-fire,” the armed forces chief of staff, General Mohamed Ali al-Makdashi, told AFP.
Makdashi said his forces were ready to “stop any attempt by the Houthis to advance.”
The halt in fighting precedes peace talks set to begin on April 18 in Kuwait under U.N. auspices between the government and the Houthis foes aimed at ending a conflict that has killed more than 6,200 people and displaced millions.
The coalition began a military campaign in March last year with the aim of preventing Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.
The Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in September 2014 and now control tracts of Yemen with the help of forces loyal to Saleh, say they are part of a revolution against corruption.