Yemen's UN humanitarian ceasefire fails to hold

Yemens UN humanitarian ceasefire fails to hold
Houthi militants inspect damage at a fabric factory after a Saudi-led air strike hit it in Yemen's capital Sanaa.

Clashes between Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi hit several areas while coalition strikes targeted rebel positions.


Published: Sat 11 Jul 2015, 5:20 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 Jul 2015, 10:08 PM

Sanaa - A UN Yemen truce aimed at delivering desperately needed aid to millions threatened with famine failed to take hold on Saturday as clashes and Saudi-led coalition air strikes persisted.
The six-day ceasefire came into effect just before midnight on Friday, but clashes between Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi hit several areas while coalition strikes targeted rebel positions.
The United Nations hoped the truce would hold until the end of Ramadan on July 17, allowing sorely needed aid to reach civilians.
But with fierce fighting resuming just hours after the lull was supposed to take effect, attempts to end the violence appeared stillborn as both sides accused each other of not taking the peace efforts seriously.
The Saudi-led coalition said it "did not yet receive any request from the legitimate Yemeni government asking for a truce or cessation of military operations."
Coalition spokesman Brigadier-General Ahmed Al Assiri said the alliance was "not concerned with this truce because it does not provide a commitment from the Houthi militia".
Coalition warplanes raided Houthi positions in the central city of Taez, where clashes between the rebels and fighters loyal to Hadi continued after the truce.
Violence also raged overnight in Taez, with witnesses saying the Houthis had also bombed several districts.
Yemen's official news agency, which is run by the exiled government, accused the Houthis and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh of sending reinforcements to the city ahead of the cessation.
In the south, coalition warplanes also hit rebels in the port city of Aden and nearby Lahj province, witnesses said.
The raids came after the rebels bombed second city Aden, according to Abdullah Al Dayani, a spokesman of the southern fighters allied with Hadi.
Warplanes also struck rebels in the southern Daleh province and in Marib east of Sanaa.
The six-day pause was declared after UN chief Ban Ki-moon received assurances from Hadi and the Houthis that it would be respected.
"We do not have much hope for the truce to succeed," said the rebels' chief Abdulmalik Al Houthi on television ahead of the truce deadline.
"The success of the truce depends on the commitment of the Saudi regime and is conditioned to a complete end to the aggression."
If the truce is respected, the World Health Organisation and its partners aim to reach more than 2.37 million people.
"This humanitarian pause will allow WHO and health cluster partners to more effectively scale up their response in affected governorates by reaching populations that have been cut off from care and urgently need life-saving health services," said WHO Yemen representative Ahmed Shadoul.
World Food Programme spokeswoman Abeer Etefa said Friday the truce was "our final hope" to reach the needy.
The truce comes more than a week after the UN declared Yemen a level-3 humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, with nearly half the country facing a food crisis.
"It is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded and through an unconditional humanitarian pause," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
UN aid agencies are ready to scale up operations, although the response to an appeal for $1.6 billion has been meagre, with just 13 per cent of that amount received so far.
More than 21.1 million people - over 80 per cent of Yemen's population - need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages.
The UN says the conflict has killed more than 3,200 people, about half of them civilians, since late March.
Etefa said the WFP delivered 9,000 tonnes of food to its warehouses in Yemen during the past week, adding the truce was needed to secure its mission.
"We hope to see an effective respect for the ceasefire, and to allow us to reach all parts of Yemen regardless of who controls them," she said.
Unicef said it was stepping up nutrition screening, vaccinations and other life-saving interventions for millions of children, with teams having to "brave extremely hazardous conditions".
This is the second ceasefire since the coalition launched its March air campaign against the rebel forces.
A five-day truce in May allowed aid to reach civilians, but UN efforts to prolong it failed.
Meanwhile, 10 suspected Al Qaeda members were killed in missile strikes by unmanned American drones in Mukalla in southeastern Yemen, a local official said.

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