Sanaa, April 11 (IANS) A ceasefire between the Yemeni government and Shia Houthi group largely held on Monday, the first day of an almost two-week-long UN-backed truce, despite minor violations, providing hopes to about 25 million people facing imminent threats of famine.
The Shia Houthi rebel group and its allies loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who now control the capital city of Sanaa, agreed to halt hostilities on Saturday, but said they would fight back if under attack, Xinhua reported.
So, too, did Saudi Arabia and its allies of embattled Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government fighting for restoring power from Shia Houthis.
The truce began on Sunday midnight and is scheduled to last till the end of peace talks in Kuwait that are set to begin on April 18 between the warring Yemeni sides, in efforts sponsored by the UN to end a year of deadly war.
Several violations were reported by the Shia rebels over the truce’s first 24 hours, including “continuing” air raids from the Saudi-led coalition against Sanaa and other cities.
Also, several violations were recorded by Saudi-backed government forces in the southern province of Taiz and northern provinces of Al-Jouf and Marib.
In the capital Sanaa, residents said they heard loud sounds of fighter jets crossing the sky just three hours after the cease-fire officially went into effect, and that coalition warplanes continued flying over Sanaa till early Monday morning.
Early Monday, pro-Houthi media outlets reported a first airstrike on Nihm, on the eastern outskirts of Sanaa, targeting the house of Houthi loyalist leader Sheikh Ahmed Sabir. Residents in Nihm confirmed the airstrike.
Another three airstrikes targeted a Houthi gathering in Salah area, and the hills of Al-Sallal and Al-Jasha in the east of the southern city of Taiz, according to Houthi media and residents there. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the airstrikes.
On the other side, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government reported a first civilian killed in a Houthi rebel shelling in the first hours of the truce in Birarah area in Taiz.
Government forces also reported the killing of one of its soldiers in rebel shelling against Usaifirah area in the north of Taiz. Medical officials confirmed both deaths.
In the northern desert province of Al-Jouf, residents reported sporadic clashes in three districts of Al-Mutoon, Al-Masloob and Al-Ghail district. Both the Houthi rebel group and Saudi-backed government forces traded accusations of breaching the cease-fire.
However, pro-government media outlets reported that the government forces stormed and controlled Al-Masloob district Monday afternoon after Houthi rebel breached the truce in the area early morning.
Sporadic clashes were also reported between the rebels and government forces in Bayhan area in the province of Shabwa. Both sides accused each other of breaching the cease-fire.
In the afternoon, Houthi media reported other Saudi-led airstrikes and said they targeted Al-Sad area in the southern province of al-Bayda, and the areas of Asilan and Almatup in the province of Shabwa, as well as other air raids against the areas of Jahmalia, Thabat and Dhabab in the southern province of Taiz.
Official Saba news agency, which is under Houthi rebel control, quoted a military spokesman as saying that “the Saudi aggression and their mercenaries have yet to commit to the truce that has officially been agreed upon and declared by the United Nations.”
More than 6,000 people, half of them civilians, have been killed in ground battles and airstrikes in Yemen since armed Houthi rebels seized the capital city of Sanna in September 2014, driving President Hadi into exile.
Previous cease-fires and negotiations between the warring parties in the country only temporarily curbed violence but failed to produce any progress toward peace.
However, some analysts say they see a more conducive atmosphere for the Kuwait talks next week.