Dozens of fighters across Yemen were killed in heavy fighting hours before a UN-brokered ceasefire was due to begin, as warring parties came under mounting pressure to end a conflict that has raged for more than two years.
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced the truce from 12.59am UAE time on Thursday for three days, subject to renewal.
But clashes killed dozens of fighters across the country on Wednesday, including near the Saudi border and around the capital Sanaa. At least 30 Houthi rebels and five pro-government fighters died during heavy artillery bombardments near the Red Sea, in Hajja province, a loyalist statement said.
The truce will be the sixth attempt to end the bloodshed since a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in March last year to support the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi after the rebels overran much of Yemen.
Almost 6,900, mostly civilians, have been killed and another three million are displaced and millions more need food aid.
With supplies greatly disrupted, people are stockpiling water and any non-perishable goods they can find.
The last ceasefire attempt began in April alongside UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait but both sides accused each other of breaches.
After peace talks collapsed in August, fighting escalated until an October 8 coalition air strike killed more than 140 people and wounded 525 at a funeral in Sanaa.
The US announced review of its intelligence and said a coalition aircraft “wrongly targeted” the funeral based on incorrect information.
The US navy targeted Houthi rebels directly for the first time on October 13, hitting radar sites involved in missile launches against a US warship.
Mr Hadi’s government said it would agree to the truce if rebels also adhered to it.
The rebels on Tuesday expressed readiness for a “lasting ceasefire, comprehensive and without conditions”.
Military sources said rebel positions in the northern Saada province were struck by coalition raids on Wednesday. At least three strikes also hit a convoy of rebel reinforcements in Omran province, north of Sanaa.
In spite of the violence, Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser to the Gulf Research Centre, said the prospects for peace were growing.
“The cost of the conflict – human, financial – is very high,” he said. “Both parties believe they cannot win, they cannot settle it by military means.”
source: Agence France-Presse