Yemen’s Houthis agree to 5-day truce proposed by S. Arabia

A man points up at a house that was damaged during an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Faj Attan village, Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2015. (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)
Yemen consented to a five-day truce proposed by Saudi Arabia, which will begin on Tuesday, according to an army spokesperson allied with the Houthi forces.

“We announce our acceptance of the humanitarian ceasefire that will begin on Tuesday,” Colonel Sharaf Luqman said in a statement broadcast by Yemen’s Saba news agency. Any violation of the ceasefire by Al-Qaeda or others would prompt a military response, he stressed.

The ceasefire, which is to allow humanitarian aid in, is to come into force at 11pm (2000 GMT) on Tuesday.

The Sunday announcement of the ceasefire deal comes hours after a Saudi-led coalition carried out air raids in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The strikes targeted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's house, Reuters cited witnesses and members of ex-leader’s political party as saying. Reportedly, three explosions hit the area and heavy smoke was visible.

Earlier, Houthi forces said in a statement that they would react “positively” to any effort that would help alleviate the plight of the Yemeni people, signaling their readiness to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire.

"We welcome any truce that has characteristics that serve the welfare of our nation," Houthi spokesperson Hussein al-Azzi said on his Facebook page.

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that a ceasefire could begin in Yemen as soon as 8pm GMT Tuesday, if Houthi forces agreed to the proposal.

Despite the end of the first phase of the Saudi-led campaign, codenamed Decisive Storm, on April 21, the fighting continues to accelerate in Yemen. The second phase has been named operation Restoring Hope, which was said to be focused on diplomacy, but did not rule out new airstrikes.

The devastation caused by the bombardment has aroused criticism from UN officials who believe the bombing to be a breach of international law.

"The indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law (IHL)," said Johannes van der Klaauw, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

"Issuing warnings of impending attacks does not absolve the parties of their IHL obligations to protect civilians from harm."

"Many civilians are effectively trapped in Sanaa as they are unable to access transport because of the fuel shortage. The targeting of an entire governorate will put countless civilians at risk," van der Klaauw said.

Last week witnessed heavy casualties and multiple airstrikes. At least 120 people died in Yemen on Wednesday, the majority of them civilians, according to Reuters.

Many lives were lost at an attempt to flee the southern port city of Aden by boat. One report claims the vessel was struck by Houthi shells.

At least 21 civilians also died in the north-western province of Saada, according to reports, due to a barrage of coalition airstrikes.

The majority of the fighting is currently in Aden’s Tawahi district, where Houthi forces were making advances.

Over 1,250 have died since the start of the operation on March 26 and more than 5,000 have been wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Local estimates are much higher than that.