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Yemen UN-brokered ceasefire comes into effect

A temporary ceasefire has started in Yemen, though sources say it may have been breached by Houthi rebels loyal to the country's former president. The UN-backed 72-hour truce is the sixth in 18 months.

Reported rebel bombardments early on Thursday morning in districts in Taez - the country's third largest city - led to clashes with loyalist forces not long after the 72-hour ceasefire came into force early on Thursday morning, military sources and residents told the German news agency dpa.

The UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said on Monday that the cessation of hostilities would take effect "at 23:59 Yemen time (2059 GMT) on 19 October 2016, for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal." 

In the runup to the latest truce, a Saudi-led coalition had been attacking rebels in Yemen after UN-sponsored peace talks between the government and rebels ended without a breakthrough in August. 

Riyadh is worried that the Shiite revivalist Houthi movement will give its regional rival, Shiite Iran, a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula. 

The coalition issued a statement shortly after the truce began, saying it "will abide by the ceasefire," which aims for "distribution of the greatest possible humanitarian and medical assistance" to Yemen's people, especially the besieged city of Taez. The rebels' military spokesman, General Sharaf Lokman, said his forces would respect the ceasefire as long as "the enemy" also abides by it on land, sea and air. However, he urged his fighters to be ready to retaliate against "all aggression."

The truce is the sixth attempt to end the fighting in Yemen since a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in March 2015 to back up the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi after rebels took over much of the country.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini late Wednesday said the truce should be a first step towards resuming UN-led peace talks. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged the "unconditional renewal" of the truce.

Almost 6,900 people have been killed - more than half of them civilians - while another three million are displaced and millions more need food aid.

Watch video 00:47

Yemen to start 72-hour ceasefire

jbh/jr (AFP, AP, dpa)

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