Saudi-led Arab coalition says Al Houthis have violated the truce almost a thousands times in 24 hours
Dubai: Saudi-led Arab coalition forces and Iran-backed Al Houthi militants in Yemen accused each other of violating a three-day ceasefire on Saturday as the United Nations sought to quell persistent fighting by extending the truce.
The ceasefire, which was due to end at midnight local time on Saturday, was aimed at paving the way for talks to end a 19-month war in the Arab world’s poorest country and allowing badly needed aid to be delivered.
Ground fighting has raged largely unabated despite the truce, but air attacks on the capital, Sana’a, have stopped and there were fewer Al Houthi missile strikes on Saudi Arabia, residents and local officials said.
The coalition backing the internationally-recognised government accused Al Houthis of violating the ceasefire almost a thousand times in the last 24 hours by launching mortar and armed attacks along Yemen’s border with the kingdom and in several Yemeni provinces.
Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, Yemen’s vice-president and powerful military leader, said after a meeting with the UN special envoy to Yemen in Riyadh late on Friday that the government sought peace but would respond to Al Houthi attacks.
“The legitimate government remains committed to restraint in recognition of the efforts of UN and for the sake of achieving the peace which has been rejected by the coup militias,” Al Ahmar said in a statement on his official Facebook page.
Al Ahmar said UN envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad asked to extend the truce for another 72 hours, and government sources told Reuters foreign diplomats also were lobbying both sides to prolong the ceasefire.
Al Houthis have also called for a negotiated solution to the conflict but were yet to agree on a truce extension.
On Friday Ould Shaikh Ahmad said the ceasefire was “fragile but largely holding”.
He urged participants “to show restraint, avoid further escalation”.
The UN official is liaising with the parties in an attempt to extend the ceasefire in order “to create a conducive environment for a long-lasting peace” in Yemen.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to support the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after Al Houthi rebels overran much of the impoverished country.
Five previous truce attempts failed, but cautious optimism preceded the current pause after an escalation of combat led to intensified international pressure.
Nearly 6,900 people have been killed in the conflict, more than half of them civilians, while an additional three million are displaced and millions more need food aid.