Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to a temporary halt in hostilities to allow desperately needed aid to reach civilians in the Arab world’s poorest country, the United Nations announced Thursday.
The “humanitarian pause” will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and last about a week, until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to a statement issued by the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban has received assurances from Yemen’s exiled President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the Shiite Muslim rebels known as Houthis and other parties to the conflict that the combatants under their control will respect the truce, the statement said.
It also noted that Hadi has communicated his acceptance of the pause to the Saudi Arabia-led and U.S.-backed coalition of Arab states that has been carrying out airstrikes on behalf of his government “to ensure their support and collaboration.”
However, there was no immediate confirmation from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, of the coalition’s position.
The United Nations this month declared its highest-level humanitarian emergency in Yemen, where months of fighting have claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, half of them civilians.
The violence together with a crippling air and sea blockade imposed by the coalition to prevent weapons from reaching the Houthis has caused what the U.N. calls a humanitarian catastrophe.
A five-day hiatus agreed to in May did not allow in nearly enough food, fuel and other supplies to meet the needs of the battered country’s 25 million people, according to aid agencies. They estimate 80% of the population is now in need of aid or protection.
Hadi had been pressing the U.N. to set a number of conditions to bolster the truce, including prisoner releases and the withdrawal of Houthi forces from large parts of the country.
The Houthis agreed to release a senior pro-Hadi politician in the capital, Sana, which they control, and allowed a shipment of 50 aid trucks to the embattled southern port city of Aden, U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the Reuters news agency. But he said more thorny political issues would need further discussion.
Regional analysts were skeptical that the negotiated pause would yield a lasting peace.
"There are sides that are not included in the truce, like Al Qaeda and Daesh,” said Abdullah Rahabi, a political analyst in Yemen, using the Arabic acronym for the extremist group Islamic State.
“Will the bombing of mosques stop? Will the attacks with cars laden with explosives? ... There are several conflicting sides, and a number of armed groups that are engaged in internal conflicts."
Special correspondent al-Alayaa reported form Sana and Times staff writer Zavis from Los Angeles.
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