Yemen marks cease-fire with Houthi rebels
A cease-fire between the Yemen government and Houthi rebels aims to end a six-year conflict and refocus efforts on fighting Al Qaeda's growing presence.
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A ceasefire between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels based in the country’s north took effect Friday.
The truce follows President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s announcement that no more military operations against the Houthi clan would be launched. The agreement aims to end a six-year conflict that has also drawn in neighboring Saudi Arabia. If the cease-fire holds, it will allow the Yemeni government to focus on the fight against Al Qaeda-linked militants in the country.
According to the Guardian, both sides have agreed to uphold the truce, overseen by a committee of government and rebel representatives. The truce binds the militants to disarm, free captured soldiers, evacuate hideouts, follow the Constitution, and vow not to attack Yemen's northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia.
"We have decided to halt military operations in the north-western region … to stop bloodshed, bring peace to the region, the return of displaced people to their villages, reconstruction and achieve national reconciliation," Saleh's office said in a statement.
Agence France-Presse reports that Houthi rebels on Friday began clearing roadblocks and landmines, as is called for in the cease-fire agreement. The six-point truce requires the rebels to reopen three major northern mountain routes in the first stage of implementation: the road between Saada, Harf Sufian and the capital Sanaa; the road from Saada west to Malahidh, and the road from Saada east to Al-Jawf.
Army commanders have reportedly seen the guerrilla fighters start work on removing roadblocks and also on removing landmines from around some of their positions.
But it remains "unclear whether the cease-fire will hold,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Previous truce agreements have fallen through, and the Yemeni government’s war with Houthi rebels has “killed hundreds of people, displaced more than 200,000 villagers and strained impoverished Yemen's military.”
Saudi Arabia, which shares Yemen’s northern border, will also benefit from this cease-fire announcement. The oil-rich kingdom has been involved in Yemen’s conflict with Houthi rebels since last November, when a fighter killed a Saudi border guard. At the time, the Saudis responded with military force, reports The New York Times, though over the next three months, the Houthis' killed at least 133 Saudi soldiers in border skirmishes.