Yemen’s Houthi rebels violate ceasefire 241 times in two days, Saudi coalition says

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s internationally recognised government accused Houthi rebels of breaking a ceasefire on Monday.

The insurgents breached the truce, which came into effect last Thursday, 241 times over the past 48 hours, the coalition said.

It said the rebels “used ballistic missiles along with light and heavy weaponry,” a coalition statement read.

Yemen’s army, along with the coalition, is adhering to the ceasefire, applying “self-restraint and are reserving their legitimate right of self-defence to respond to attacks on the front lines,” the coalition said.

The Saudi-led truce, scheduled to last two weeks, began on April 9 at 12pm and was intended to help Yemen fight off the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. The country reported its first case of the disease on April 10.

The coalition said the truce could be extended if conditions are met.

Yemen’s government called on the rebels to stop their “brutal crimes” against civilians.

“The militias need to show their serious intentions towards peace and they need to realise that their arrogance will only bring more destruction and bloodshed,” Prime Minister Moeen Abdul Malik said.

“This is all in favour of an Iranian-backed project that aims to sabotage Yemen,” he said.

The continued aggression carried out by the rebels shows that the government has been correct in saying the Houthis are not serious about finding peace, Mr Malik said.

“It also shows their rejection of all peace agreements and solutions,” he said.

The ceasefire announcement is the first major breakthrough since UN-mediated talks in late 2018 in Sweden, where both sides signed a ceasefire for the port city of Hodeidah.

It was welcomed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has called for an “immediate global ceasefire” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Guterres urged the Yemeni government and the Houthis to engage in talks “in good faith and without preconditions”.

He asked the parties to agree to a nationwide truce mechanism, humanitarian and economic confidence-building steps and a resumption of negotiations on a political settlement.

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he hoped “the spirit of co-operation and compromise will prevail as negotiations proceed”.

The truce would create “favourable conditions” for a UN-supervised meeting between the Yemeni government, the rebels and the coalition, said Col Turki Al Malki, spokesman for the Saudi-led forces.

The UN said it would bring the parties together by video conference to formally conclude the agreements from Stockholm.

“The coalition is determined to create a conducive environment for the UN envoy’s efforts, and to alleviate the suffering of the brotherly people of Yemen and support the efforts towards combating the spread of Covid-19 pandemic,” Col Al Malki said.

The Saudi-led military coalition has supported the internationally recognised government since 2015, when the Iran-backed rebels overran the capital, Sanaa.