17 May 2015

Yemen ceasefire ‘needs to continue’

Faced with street battles and bombardment, Yemenis are seeking sanctuary wherever they can. They are dependent on food supplies – but time is running out on a humanitarian window.

Sunday is the last day of a five-day humanitarian truce and there has been a desperate race to get food and medical supplies into Yemen – the poorest of the Arab states.

300,000 people have been displaced by clashes between Houthi rebels and militias loyal to Yemen’s ousted president – as well as an aerial bombardment campaign against the Houthis by a Saudi-led coalition.

On Sunday senior figures called for an extension to the truce, which began five days ago.

Khaled Bahah, Yemen’s vice president currently in exile in Saudi Arabia, said on Sunday his administration favoured an extension of a five-day ceasefire expiring in the evening but this would depend on the situation on the ground.

“We need the ceasefire to continue for long, not just for a few days, but it depends on the operation on the ground,” Mr Bahah said.

“There is an effort for an extension, but it depends on how it is on the ground. But it’s our wish from the government side that we need to extend it.”

‘Glimpse of hope’

The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, also called on Yemen’s warring parties and a Saudi-led military coalition to extend the ceasefire.

“We have seen how this humanitarian truce has given us a glimpse of hope by allowing aid to reach the Yemeni people at a time when they most desperately need it,” he said.

“In light of this spirit, I urge all parties to renew their commitment to this humanitarian truce for at least five more days.”

Time running out

Regular commercial imports into Yemen, on which the country relies on for 90 per cent of its food, have been shut down by the Saudi-led coalition as a part of a naval blockade imposed since the Saudis began a bombing campaign against the Houthis.

 Read more: a frantic race to get food into Yemen. 

Houthi militiamen seized Yemen’s capital Sana’a last year and control a significant part of Yemen’s territory. Resistance fighters, largely made up of local residents, have been unable to stop the Houthis advance.

Saudi Arabia, at the head of a coalition of nine Arabic states, began bombing Houthi positions in Yemen in March 2015 under a military intervention codenamed Operation Decisive Storm.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni citizens have been displaced in the fighting.

At least 10 people were killed in overnight battles in the Yemeni city of Taiz between Houthis and militiamen, residents and medical sources said.