Yemen Crisis: Shelling, Airstrikes Mar Humanitarian Ceasefire

By Hakim Almasmari, Holly Yan and Schams Elwazer, CNN


Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) Just hours into a five-day humanitarian ceasefire, dueling sides of the Yemeni conflict are accusing each other of breaching the peace deal.

According to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, Houthi rebels started artillery shelling almost immediately after the truce went into effect at midnight Sunday, according to a source close to the Yemeni government.

The source said Houthi militias shelled several areas in the central city of Taiz, including “many residential areas.”

“These were initial and immediate indications of the failure of the ceasefire,” the source said, but added that the Yemeni government considers the humanitarian truce ongoing despite the breach.

But the Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry accused a Saudi-backed coalition of violating the ceasefire, saying two airstrikes struck Hajjah and Saada provinces.

One person was killed and seven injured in the Hajjah strike on a medical center, which is used as a shelter by Houthi rebels, according to a senior official in the Houthi-controlled defense ministry.

No casualties were reported from the airstrike in Saada.

The source close to the Yemeni government would not comment on the airstrikes but reiterated that coalition has maintained that it had the right to respond to any military action by the Houthis.

The Saudi-led coalition — allied with the United States — and Houthi rebels had agreed to a five-day humanitarian ceasefire.

The temporary truce was intended to allow for the delivery of medical and humanitarian aid, deposed Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi said through Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA. Hadi fled the country after Houthi rebels launched their offensive in Yemen.

Previous humanitarian ceasefires have struggled. One in May was only partially observed by the warring sides, but it was enough to allow aid groups to get supplies to some of those in dire need. But another truce earlier this month failed to take hold, according to the United Nations.

At least 3,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the conflict began in March, according to the United Nations. An estimated 21 million are in need of immediate humanitarian aid, and as many as 1 million people have fled their homes.

Houthi officials have said their forces “will only abide by the Saudi-announced ceasefire if Saudi Arabia does,” said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the Houthi-declared acting president of Yemen.

“Unfortunately, previous ceasefires were not taken seriously and were not implemented on the ground.”

The Houthi rebels, a Shiite minority, are backed by Iran. The Sunni-dominated Saudis have led a coalition in strikes against Houthi rebels and other groups.

Hakim Almasmari reported from Sanaa; Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta; and Schams Elwazer reported from Abu Dhabi. CNN’s Yousuf Basil, Jethro Mullen, Pat St. Claire and Anas Hamdan also contributed to this report.




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