Houthis, Saudi-led coalition agree to informal truce

An informal agreement to reduce hostilities between Saudi-led coalition forces and rebels in and around Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Hodeida has taken hold.

Background

Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries in the world, has been devastated by the war between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement. The Yemen Civil war began in 2011 with the Arab Spring protests that led to the fall of the then President Ali Abdallah Saleh on charges of corruption and economic grievances. Hadi, the deputy minister at that time, took over the region. However, the increasing political instability in Yemen paved the way for the Houthi, representing the Shiite minority to take over the territory.

A military intervention was launched by Saudi Arabia in 2015, to influence the Civil War in Yemen, backing the exiled government, fighting against the Houthi group, who are aligned with Iran. The two-year Saudi-led campaign has damaged infrastructure and caused a shortage of medicine in one of the poorest Arab countries. Reports have also emerged that there are players within Yemen who actively sponsor terrorism by funding activities conducted by ISIS.

In March 2017, 22 people died and several were wounded from of a Saudi-led attack in western region near the Red Sea fishing town of Khoukha. The Yemen war has led to 10,000 deaths and more than 3 million people have been displaced. According to the United Nations Food Program, nearly half of Yemen’s population is on the verge of famine.

Analysis

An informal agreement to reduce hostilities between Saudi-led coalition forces and rebels in and around Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Hodeida has taken hold, military officials said - in a move that could be a prelude to peace talks that would end the ruinous war in the poorest Arab country.

The officials said hostilities have ceased for the second consecutive day, with both sides respecting the truce. Only three coalition airstrikes were carried out in the last 24 hours, targeting rebel positions outside the city. The truce followed advances by the coalition in their latest attempt to retake the city from the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, with its forces now 5 km (3 miles) short of the port, Yemen’s traditional lifeline.

The officials said efforts were being made to persuade the Houthis to abandon the city and hand over control to an independent Yemeni party that would run the port under U.N. supervision. The Houthis, who had in the past rejected the proposal, said the coalition accepted the truce because of its heavy casualties and because it came under international pressure to spare some 500,000 civilians inside the city; and the death and destruction that come with street-to-street fighting, which already began this week. The military and Houthi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The U.N. envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed the reduction of hostilities and said it was a “crucial step” to prevent further humanitarian suffering. Griffiths, said the statement, reassured the warring sides that the U.N. remained ready to re-engage the parties on a negotiated agreement for Hodeida, which would protect the port and preserve the humanitarian pipeline.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock echoed Griffiths’ call on all parties to show restraint and reiterated the U.N.’s readiness “to play an enhanced role in ensuring the appropriate use of key facilities, especially around Hodeida.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that the informal ceasefire must be converted into a formalised ceasefire or at least the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for UN aid workers to reach the famished Yemeni population. We believe that humanitarian aid missions should be given priority access to affected people in Hodeida.