Saudi-led coalition announces ‘humanitarian pause’ in Yemen. Will it stick?

Yemen’s exiled president requested the five-day cease-fire to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to ease humanitarian aid deliveries.  

Hani Mohammed/AP
A boy shows debris through a hole in a classroom of a school damaged by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, July 20, 2015.

The Saudi-led coalition promised it would start a five-day humanitarian pause in Yemen on Sunday just before midnight in an announcement on Saudi Arabian state media.

The exiled president of Yemen, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, requested the cease-fire to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. In turn, the coalition said it would halt military operations to assure humanitarian and medical aid would reach the Yemeni people.

Yet it will not hesitate to respond if the Shi’ite Houthi rebels or their allies continue to make military advances, the statement reads. 

U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced he was on his way to Riyadh for further consultations with president Hadi and other Gulf officials, Reuters reports.

The call for a humanitarian truce comes after Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 80 people and injured at least 150 more in the Yemeni province of Taiz early Saturday.

Earlier this month, the United Nations brokered a one-week ceasefire – that the Saudi-led coalition nullified within hours after launching air strikes in the capital and in the Taiz province.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said President Hadi had accepted the earlier ceasefire, but Saudi Arabia denied such claims.

The Iran-allied Houthi forces seized Yemen’s capital last September. But clashes escalated heavily after they pushed into the south in March and ousted Hadi, igniting a military counteroffensive led by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states.

The Sunni Muslim Gulf states spearheading the aerial campaign against the rebels have been trying to reinstate Hadi’s government despite the efforts of Houthis and their allies, who are loyal to Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The rebels have had control of several southern provinces along the coast, denying nearly 13 million people UN food aid. Since the violence surged in March, the conflict has left over 1,500 civilians dead, 3,600 injured, and 1 million displaced, the UN reports.

Yet the situation has shown signs of improvement. 

Lask week, Saudi-backed forces wiped the Houthi rebels out of the port city of Aden and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has since been able to deliver three months worth of aid to the Yemeni people.

But other humanitarian organizations stress that much more needs to be done.

On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the suffering of the civilian population has reached “unprecedented levels.” 

“More than 100 days into the crisis, severe shortages of water, food and fuel continue across the country, together with airstrikes and fighting on the ground," wrote Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

"We remain ready to facilitate the evacuation of the dead and wounded – as we are currently doing in both Aden and Taiz – and to visit detainees on both sides, but all parties must facilitate our access and respect our mandate."

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