Yemen war: Ceasefire takes effect in Hudaydah after skirmishes

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Fighting between Yemeni pro-government forces and Houthi rebels in the city of Hudaydah has reportedly subsided, after a ceasefire came into effect overnight.

Skirmishes continued for several hours following the start of the UN-brokered truce at midnight (21:00 GMT), but locals now say it is relatively calm.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths said the initiative seemed to be working so far.

The battle for Hudaydah threatened the operation of its port, which is crucial to the delivery of aid supplies.

Half of the war-torn country’s population – 14 million people – are on the brink of famine and an estimated 85,000 children may have died from malnutrition.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they saw as an Iranian proxy, Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab states intervened in an attempt to restore the government.

‘Yemenis hoping against hope’

No-one expected the ceasefire to be smooth, simple, or straightforward. There is no trust between the warring sides. Both believe the other still wants a military solution.

The key to this truce largely holding will be the UN’s presence on the ground and its ability to enforce the gradual pull-out of all forces and put in place a new order. That is why Martin Griffiths has called for its “swift” deployment.

Pressure from all the outside players in this war made this unexpected truce happen in a week of talks in Sweden. It is also essential if it is to hold. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, regarded as the architect of this war in Yemen, is said to be playing a key role in this shift from a military to a political push.

But the risk of an all-out assault on Hudaydah and Yemen’s descent into famine still looms, if it all fails. Millions of Yemenis are hoping against hope that it holds.

 

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