A Saudi-led coalition battling rebels who hold Yemen’s capital began a unilateral cease-fire Wednesday in the yearslong war, even as the insurgents said they rejected the proposal.
The Saudi-proposed pause in fighting began at 6 a.m. ahead of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Several similar efforts have failed, and there was no immediate independent confirmation on whether hostilities paused between Saudi-led forces and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The cease-fire announcement late Tuesday had raised immediate doubts because the Iran-backed rebels are skipping an ongoing summit over the war in Saudi Arabia, called by the Saudi-based Gulf Cooperation Council, because it’s taking place on their adversary’s territory.
Within hours, Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukaiti rejected the offer over the continuing closure of Sanaa’s airport and restrictions on the country’s ports by the Saudi-led coalition.
"The joint forces command of the coalition announces a halt of military operations inside Yemen starting Wednesday at 6 am," Saudi state news agency SPA reported, citing a statement from the coalition's spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki.
Houthi leader Mohammed al-Bukaiti tweeted that "the enforced siege on Yemen is a military act because it is enforced by the force of weapons. If the siege is not lifted, the coalition's announcement that it is halting its military operations will be meaningless.
"This means that our military operations to break the siege will continue", he added.
The United Nations and others had been pushing the warring sides to reach a truce for Ramadan, as has tenuously occurred in the past. Ramadan is likely to start this weekend, depending on the sighting of the new crescent moon.
The GCC, whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, began the talks Tuesday in Riyadh. The summit is expected to continue through April 7.
Code-named Operation Decisive Storm, the intervention initially consisted of a bombing campaign on Houthi rebels and later a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has attacked the positions of the Houthi militia, and loyalists of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, supported by Iran.
The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including aerial refueling and search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states and continued strikes against AQAP.
In January 2016, the Saudi foreign minister said that US and British military officials were in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, having access to lists of targets but were not involved in choosing targets.
The war received widespread criticism and had a dramatic worsening effect on Yemen's humanitarian situation, that reached the level of a "humanitarian disaster" or "humanitarian catastrophe".
The question of whether or not the intervention is in compliance with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter has been the matter of academic dispute.
(with inputs from AP)