TEHRAN (Press Shia) – A Saudi Arabia-led coalition supporting Yemen's fugitive former government against Houthis has declared a 48-hour ceasefire to begin on Saturday, according to local media.
"It has been decided to begin a 48-hour ceasefire from 12:00 noon in Yemen's timing (09:00 GMT) on Saturday," a coalition statement carried by Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency said, adding that the truce could be renewed if Houthi fighters and their allies abided by it and allowed aid into besieged cities.
The coalition announcement came after a request for a ceasefire by Yemen's resigned President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, himself based in Riyadh, to Saudi King Salman.
The naval and air "blockade" would remain in place and surveillance jets would continue to fly over Yemen, it added.
The Saudi-led coalition has bombed Yemen since March 2015, trying to oust Houthis who took control of the capital, Sana’a, in 2014. The Saudis want to restore the country’s resigned president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia.
But instead of defeating the Houthis, the campaign has sunk into a grinding stalemate, systematically obliterating Yemen’s already bare-bones economy. The coalition has destroyed a wide variety of civilian targets that critics say have no clear link to the Houthis.
It has hit hospitals and schools. It has destroyed bridges, power stations, poultry farms, a key seaport and factories that produce yogurt, tea, tissues, ceramics, Coca-Cola and potato chips. It has bombed weddings and a funeral.
The bombing campaign has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country, where cholera is spreading, millions of people are struggling to get enough food, and malnourished babies are overwhelming hospitals, according to the United Nations. Millions have been forced from their homes.
There was no immediate word from the Houthis on whether they would abide by the truce, Al Jazeera reported.
The US chief diplomat had said after meeting with Houthi negotiators in Oman that they were ready to observe the ceasefire plan, but Hadi's loyalists said they were not aware of any new peace initiative.
Since Thursday, more than 50 people have been killed in clashes between the rebels and loyalists on the outskirts of the third biggest city Taiz, medical and military sources said.
Six attempts to clinch a ceasefire in Yemen have foundered, including a three-day October truce that fell apart as soon as it went into force. It was designed to allow aid deliveries to millions of homeless and hungry Yemenis.
"There has been severe and heavy clashes on different fronts in Yemen recently, now with this ceasefire, there will be a decrease in the number of airstrikes and heavy clashes but at the same time, inside the country, we are going to see the same heavy clashes going on despite the announcement of the ceasefire by the Saudi-led coalition," Baaran Shiban, a London-based human rights worker, told Al Jazeera.
"Usually a ceasefire is supposed to be for humanitarian aids and to have access for us to areas suffered most by the clashes, but we are not sure whether this truce will hold," Shiban said.