Will Yemen rebels accept a fresh cease-fire plan?

Yemen's government – under pressure from the US to focus on Al Qaeda-linked groups operating within its borders – is stepping up efforts to solve a separate pressing issue: five years' worth of fighting with Shiite rebels.

By , Correspondent

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    A Saudi soldier on Mt. Doud, Jan. 27, a high strategic position occupied by houthi rebels from Yemen that was retaken by the Saudi military a week earlier. Mt. Doud is in the southern Saudi province of Jizan, near the border with Yemen.
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The Yemeni government has presented a cease-fire plan to Houthi rebels in a bid to end five years of fighting with the fiercely anti-Western Shiite group. An end to that conflict, which has also drawn in the Saudi Arabian military, would allow Yemen to turn its focus toward the Al Qaeda affiliates operating within its borders.

Reuters reports that a Yemeni presidential adviser announced the government's offer to the Houthis on Saturday.

Al Jazeera reports that the problem now is ironing out the details of the cease-fire. Last week the Houthis accepted the terms of a cease-fire offer that the Yemeni government made in September. But the government refused to recognize the offer and said it would only cease military operations against the Houthis "under a certain framework," including an end to Houthi operations against Saudi Arabia.

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What's in the peace plan?

Mr. Iryani described the government's plan Saturday.

But despite each side's verbal commitment to a cease-fire, the fighting between the Houthis and government forces has flared up in recent days.

CNN reports that 13 government soldiers, 19 Houthi rebels, and 22 civilians have been killed in fighting around the city of Saada, according to the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post.

Al Jazeera reports that the Houthis claimed to have killed 23 soldiers in attacks on Saada and a military convoy outside the city, while the government claimed to have killed 11 rebels. Al Jazeera adds that the Houthis killed five civilians in a mortar attack on the home of tribal chief and parliamentarian Othman Mujalli, who recently spoke in favor of the government. Mr. Mujalli's son was among those killed.

Proxy war?

Iranian news organization Press TV reports that the Royal Saudi Air Force launched several strikes on Houthi regions on Friday, wounding two. Iran, which is a Shiite nation, has a particular interest in the plight of the Houthi rebels, especially given the involvement of Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. Some have speculated that the Houthi-Yemeni conflict has the potential to become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which are vying for influence over the Middle East.

The Yemeni peace agreement is further complicated by the government's recent in absentia sentencing of Mr. Houthi's brother, Yahia al-Houthi. Agence France-Presse reports that Yahia al-Houthi, was given a 15-year sentence for plotting the murder of various officials and for membership in a terrorist organization, among other crimes.

Yahia al-Houthi was elected to parliament in Yemen in 2003, but subsequently fled the country to Germany. But Yemeni political analyst Ali Saif Hassan told Voice of America that Mr. Houthi is not likely to be extradited. Rather, the government is likely to use the sentence as a negotiating tool during talks with the rebels.

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