Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement announced on Sunday it has accepted the offer of a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in the country that was offered by the anti-Houthi Saudi-led coalition on Friday.
Yemen news agency SABA, which is currently controlled by the Houthis, carried a statement by the movement on Sunday which said the Shi’ite group had agreed to the truce but would take action if confronted by volunteer forces loyal to Yemen’s legitimate and internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced the proposed ceasefire would be effective from Tuesday evening, in order to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country. However, he stressed the continuation and extension of the five-day truce would be subject to the Houthis halting aggressive action against the Yemeni people.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris on the sidelines of a summit of Gulf leaders, Jubeir said: “The ceasefire will end should Houthis or their allies not live up to the agreement—this is a chance for the Houthis to show that they care about their people and they care about the Yemeni people.”
His comments were echoed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, also at the press conference, who said the ceasefire would hold “provided that the Houthis agree that there will be no bombing, no shooting, no movement of their troops or maneuvering to reposition for military advantage, [and] no movement of heavy weapons.”
On Saturday Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri told reporters at a press conference at the Riyadh Airbase that the Saudi-led coalition had provided 340 individual permits for humanitarian agencies and NGOs to enter Yemen to deliver the much-needed aid to its people.
Coalition forces are currently imposing an air, sea and land blockade over the country in order to stop military supplies reaching the Houthis’ militias. Several reports suggest they have been receiving support and military training from Tehran.
“The important thing now is for the humanitarian agencies to have a presence on the ground in Yemen, in order to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people,” Asiri said.
He also confirmed the Saudi-led coalition had continued targeting on Friday the northern Houthi stronghold of Saada, with more than 300 individual air raids carried out over the last few days. Around 100 Houthi bases, centers and offices had been destroyed during the strikes, some of which had been used in recent weeks to carry out attacks on Saudi border guards to the north, he said.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched their offensive in late March after President Hadi fled Yemen and sought international intervention to restore political legitimacy in the country.
A month earlier the Houthis launched a coup in the country, deposing Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, and placing both men and other members of the cabinet under house arrest.
Nasser Al-Haqbani contributed additional reporting from Riyadh.