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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The agreement comes three weeks after a major international conference on Yemen, held in London, during which Western leaders urged an end to the festering Houthi conflict so that Yemen could focus more attention on fighting Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. That threat has drawn renewed global concern since the group claimed responsibility for an attempt to bomb a passenger jet as it was approaching Detroit on Dec. 25.Skip to next paragraph
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However, Al Jazeera reports that rebel commander Abdul-Malik al-Houthi failed to many any commitment to stop fighting Saudi Arabia – called the sixth condition in the truce – in an audio message released via the internet on Saturday. "I announce our acceptance of the five conditions [for an end to the conflict] after the aggression stops," he said.
Saudi Arabia is seeking the implementation of this sixth condition. The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Saudi Arabia has invested in efforts to ensure a rebel-free zone along its border with Yemen.
The Saudi involvement escalated in early November when Riyadh responded to a fatal cross-border raid with a full-scale artillery and air assault against the rebels.
Much is unclear about the fighting since then because both the Saudi and Yemeni governments have not allowed journalists to visit the area. But after more than two months, the Saudis appear unable to attain their goal of a rebel-free zone along the border extending several miles inside Yemen….
Riyadh has deep suspicions that Iran may be giving covert aid to the Houthi rebels, but there has been no clear evidence of that so far….
“I think the Saudis and Yemenis are convinced that ... they must inflict a heavy military defeat on the Houthis so they will be ready to talk from a position of weakness,” [Mustafa Alani, head of security and terrorism Studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center] said.
The cease-fire will help stabilize Yemen, which risks becoming a failed state, according to a Monitor contributing commentator. Yemen will now have to focus on curtailing the Al Qaeda threat, boosting economic development, tackling a secessionist movement in the south, and addressing an acute water shortage.