Sanaa, July 11 (IANS) Fighting raged in Yemen after a UN-brokered humanitarian truce came into effect early Saturday with the warring parties being accused of breaching the ceasefire, officials and witnesses said.
Warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition forces struck several military targets in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and other major cities early on Saturday, two hours after the truce came into effect, while the Shia Houthi group fired mortar shells against pro-government fighters in Mansoura neighbourhood in the southern port city of Aden, witnesses told Xinhua news agency.
The ceasefire, which was announced on Thursday by the UN between Yemen’s exiled government in Saudi Arabia and the Shia Houthi group controlling the capital of Sanaa, started at 11.59 p.m. on Friday and will last through the end of Muslim holy month of Ramadan till July 17.
It is aimed at facilitating aid deliveries to more than 21 million people in Yemen who have been suffering from severe shortage of food, water and medicine supplies after more than three months of airstrikes and ground fighting.
The UN statement said on Thursday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had received assurances from the Houthis, the General People’s Congress — the former ruling party led by ex-president Ali Abdullash Saleh who supported the Houthis — and other parties that “the pause will be fully respected and that there will be no violations from any combatants under their control”.
“It is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded and through an unconditional humanitarian pause,” said the statement.
The UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has warned that the conflict-torn country is just “one step from famine”.
However, residents in Sanaa said the fresh airstrikes hit two military bases controlled by Houthi-allied forces loyal to Saleh, causing explosions that shook residential neighbourhoods.
The warplanes also hit a Houthi gathering and allied forces in Aden city and provinces of Taiz, Ibb and Dhamar, according to local residents.
The airstrikes destroyed several armoured vehicles and tanks of the Houthis in Aden early on Saturday, security officials said.
The coalition fighter jets later hit military targets in the Houthi stronghold of Saada province which borders Saudi Arabia, said tribal officials.
At the same time, security officials said the Shia fighters and their allied forces clashed at midnight with pro-government fighters in Aden and Taiz, as well as neighbouring al-Dhalee province.
Witnesses said the clashes took place in several cities as the Houthis advanced into areas controlled by the pro-government fighters.
The warring parties accused the other of violating the truce.
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi delivered a speech aired by his group’s Almasirah television on Friday night, in which he said “there is no hope for the declared truce to be successful as our experience of the previous one was bitter”.
On May 12, the Saudi-led Arab coalition unilaterally declared a five-day ceasefire in Yemen to allow deliveries of humanitarian aids. But it was broken by all sides.
The Saudi-led coalition has been striking the Houthis and their allied forces since March 26 when Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted by the Houthi militia which seized the capital Sanaa by force in September.
UN human rights agencies reported that more than 3,000 Yemenis have been killed, mostly civilians, and over 13,000 others wounded, while more than a million have fled their homes since late March.