Yemeni troops fighting alongside Houthi rebels have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire proposed by Saudi Arabia. The deal follows intense bombing of rebel positions in the north of the country.
Yemen has accepted a five-day ceasefire that had been proposed by Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, according to a spokesman for Yemen's troops, allied with the Shiite Houthi rebels.
The Saudis said the temporary truce would begin on Tuesday, giving donors a chance to get much needed humanitarian aid into the country, but stressed the plan could not go ahead without the rebels' agreement.
"Following mediation from friendly countries to establish a humanitarian truce that would end the tyrannical blockade and permit commercial ships to reach Yemeni ports and allow humanitarian aid in, we announce our agreement to the humanitarian truce," spokesman Col. Sharaf Luqman told the rebel-controlled Saba news agency.
It's not clear if the Houthis themselves accept the truce, although a statement from the group said they would deal "positively" with any efforts to lift the suffering of the Yemeni people.
A Saudi-led offensive, which began in March, aims to diminish the military capabilities of the Houthis. The coalition of Saudi Arabia and nine other Arab nations – supported by Britain, France and the United States – launched airstrikes in support of embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in a bid to drive the rebels back and restore Hadi's government.
The United Nations has voiced concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the impoverished Middle East country. More than 1,400 people have been killed in the airstrikes and fighting, while scores have been displaced and struggling to access basic supplies such as food and medicine.
Saleh residence targeted
Meanwhile, media reports reported Sunday that Saudi-led airstrikes had bombed the residence of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa. The strongman is believed to be residing outside the city and was not hurt in the attack. Troops still loyal to him have played a significant role in helping the Houthis seize much of the country.
The bombing followed a night of intense strikes against rebel positions in Saada, in the north of the country, forcing hundreds of families to flee.
Saleh ruled Yemen for three decades, before being forced to step down amid a violent uprising in 2012. Troops loyal to him have been fighting against the Shiite Houthis, who advanced from their northern stronghold last year and seized control of the capital, Sanaa, in Sepetember. Since then, they have continued to expand their control further south, towards the port city of Aden, prompting Hadi to flee to Riyadh.
nm/jr (Reuters, AFP, AP)