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World

October 20, 2016

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Yemen fighting kills dozens ahead of truce

Yemen fighting kills dozens ahead of truce

ADEN: Clashes killed dozens of fighters across Yemen before a UN-brokered ceasefire was to begin on Wednesday, as warring parties came under mounting pressure to end the two-year conflict.

The truce is the sixth attempt to end the bloodshed since a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in March 2015 to support the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after rebels overran much of Yemen.

Civilians have paid the highest price in a country that was already the Arabian peninsula´s poorest.

Almost 6,900 have been killed -- more than half of them civilians -- while another three million are displaced and millions more need food aid.

A United Nations report said air strikes by the coalition were suspected of causing around half of all civilian deaths, while rebel-affiliated groups were responsible for about a quarter.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on Sunday announced the truce from 23:59 (2059 GMT) for an initial 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 Huthi rebels and five pro-Hadi fighters died during heavy artillery bombardments near the Red Sea, in Hajja province, a loyalist statement said.

The last ceasefire attempt began in April alongside UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait but both the rebels and the coalition accused each other of breaches.

After talks collapsed in August, fighting escalated until an October 8 coalition air strike which the UN said killed more than 140 people and wounded at least 525 at a funeral in Sanaa.

The United States announced an "immediate review" of its intelligence and refuelling assistance to the coalition, whose investigative team then released unusually quick findings from a probe of the incident.

It said a coalition aircraft "wrongly targeted" the funeral based on "incorrect information".

In another major development, the US Navy for the first time targeted Huthi rebels directly. On October 13 it hit radar sites which, the US said, were involved in missile launches against a US warship and other vessels.

Yemen´s Huthis are allied with members of the security forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

They control the capital Sanaa and other territory but coalition-backed forces earlier pushed them back from the southern port of Aden and adjacent areas.

Both the rebels and pro-government forces have come under increased international pressure to silence their guns.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the announcement of the new truce.

"We ask the parties to take all steps necessary to advance the implementation of this cessation, call on them to sustain it, and strongly encourage its unconditional renewal," Kerry said.

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