Houthis accept Saudi offer for ceasefire in Yemen

CAIRO: Yemen`s Houthi group accepted a five-day humanitarian ceasefire proposed by its adversary Saudi Arabia on Sunday but said it would respond to any violations of the truce.

Saudi Arabia had said on Friday that the ceasefire could begin on Tuesday if the militia agreed to the pause, which would let in badly needed food and medical supplies.

Backed by the United States, a Saudi-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against the Houthis and army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26 with the aim of restoring the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

`We will deal positively with any efforts, calls or serious and positive measures that would help lift the suffering and allow aid, supplies and ships to move safely to Yemen,` the Houthis said in a statement carried by state media Saba.

Colonel Sharaf Lugman, spokesperson for the Houthi allied army, said on Sunday Yemeni forces had agreed to the truce but would confront any attacks by Hadi loyalists on battlefronts which stretch across much of the impoverished country.

The Houthis say their campaign is aimed at defeating Al Qaeda militants based in Yemen and accuse Mr Hadi`s forces of supporting the group.

Arab planes bombed for a second day in a row the vast compound in the capital Sanaa which is home to ex-president Saleh, a key player in Yemen`s political crisis whose loyalists in the army fight on the Houthis` side.

Mr Saleh, a wily political operator, appeared unscathed and stood before the ruins of his political residence to taunt Saudi Arabia in remarks televised by his T V channel, Yemen Today.

`It isn`t just me who is being targeted but every citizen ... This aggression is cowardly. Go ahead and come by land, we`ll make a welcome for you,` Mr Saleh, wearing sunglasses, said calmly.

Arab air strikes also hit weapons caches at a military base and a presidential palace in the southern city of Aden, the epicentre of fighting for more than six weeks, and southern fighters questioned the proposed pause.

`We doubt that the Houthis would stick to a ceasefire or truce because they have repeatedly broken political commitments they have made in the past,` a pro-Hadi militiaman in the city said.

The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it had dropped 55 tons of food and medical supplies over the city, in the largest such airdrop by a coalition country since the campaign began.

In a sign that the alliance was gaining some support, the Saudi official news agency SPA said on Sunday that an unspecified number of Malaysian forces had arrive in the kingdom to support the mission, without providing any more details. There was no immediate Malaysian comment on the report.

The Houthis` acceptance of a truce came as Saudi ground forces conducted air strikes, fired artillery and launched at least two dozen rockets on Saada province, a Houthi stronghold on Saudi Arabia`s southern border with Yemen.

International concern about the humanitarian situation has grown as the strikes have killed more than 1,300 people, sent locals fleeing from their homes and destroyed infrastructure, leading to shortages of food, medicine and fuel.-Reuters

Published in Dawn