A cease-fire brokered by the United Nations is scheduled to take hold in Yemen tonight in an effort to allow humanitarian workers to deliver badly needed aid. The U.N. hopes that this could pave the way for peace talks.
U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced the deal on Monday. A statement from the U.N. said Ahmed “has received assurances from all Yemeni parties” that they will abide by the Cessation of Hostilities which he negotiated in April.
The pause in hostilities is expected to go into effect just before midnight tonight local time — Yemen is seven hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast. It’s set to last “an initial period of 72 hours,” and can be renewed.
It’s worth noting that previous cease-fires have collapsed — in some cases mere minutes after going into effect.
In Yemen’s war, Shiite Houthi rebels are fighting troops loyal to the internationally recognized president, Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi. And Hadi’s allies in a Saudi-led coalition have been carrying out airstrikes across the country since March 2015.
The U.S. provides support to that Saudi-led coalition, including intelligence and mid-air refueling. But last week, U.S. officials said they were reviewing that support after a coalition airstrike hit a funeral gathering in the capital, Sanaa, killing at least 140 people.
The Saudi-led coalition is routinely criticized by human rights groups for killing civilians in strikes against hospitals, schools and crowded market areas. The Houthi rebels are also known to indiscriminately launch rockets into civilian neighborhoods. The U.N. estimates that some 4,000 civilians have been killed since the war escalated in March 2015 — the majority of those by Saudi-led airstrikes.
“We ask the parties to take all steps necessary to advance the implementation of this cessation, call on them to sustain it, and strongly encourage its unconditional renewal,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “We note again that peaceful resolution of this conflict requires compromises and commitments by everyone.”