RIYADH: A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government against Iran-backed rebels declared a 48-hour ceasefire to begin in Yemen Saturday, it said in a statement on the kingdom’s SPA news agency website.
“It has been decided to begin a 48-hour ceasefire from 12:00 noon in Yemen’s timing (0900 GMT) on Saturday,” the coalition statement said, adding that the truce could be renewed if the Huthi rebels and their allies abide by the deal and allow aid deliveries to besieged cities.
The coalition announcement followed a request for a ceasefire by Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi — himself based in Riyadh — to Saudi King Salman, the statement said.
“Coalition forces will abide by the ceasefire”, it said, but warned that should the rebels or troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh make any military moves in the area the coalition would respond.
The naval and air “blockade” will also remain in place and surveillance jets will continue to fly over Yemen, it added.
The coalition has been militarily supporting forces loyal to Hadi’s government since March 2015.
There was no word yet from the rebels on whether they would abide by the new truce.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had announced a ceasefire that was to have taken effect on Thursday, but there was intense fighting Friday, eliminating hopes of warring parties abiding by the truce.
The US chief diplomat had said after meeting with Huthi negotiators in Oman that they were ready to observe the ceasefire plan, but Hadi’s government said it was not aware of any new peace initiative.
Since Thursday, more than 50 people have been killed in clashes between the rebels and loyalists on the outskirts of the third biggest city Taez, medical and military sources said.
The United Nations says more than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in Yemen since the Arab coalition began its military campaign last year.