Yemen's president, Houthi rebels agree to weeklong ceasefire

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2015 12:28 PM
Yemen's president, Houthi rebels agree to weeklong ceasefire

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's internationally recognized government and Shiite rebels who have controlled the capital Sanaa since September last year agreed Saturday to start a weeklong ceasefire on the eve of direct talks in Geneva, both sides confirmed.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will order his commanders to halt all fire five minutes before midnight on Monday, said officials in Hadi's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to brief reporters.

"We have agreed to the ceasefire to lift the suffering of our people and to deliver humanitarian assistance to them," Mohammed Abdel Salam, the spokesman of the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, said Saturday at a news conference in Sanaa as the Houthi delegation prepared to depart for Geneva.

The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and Hadi's loyalists.

The internationally recognized government has long requested the unconditional implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that requires the rebels to withdraw from all areas they control and lay down arms captured in months of fighting.

Abdel Salam said the Houthi delegation will discuss the resolution at the talks in Geneva which begin Monday. But so far, the Houthis have not said they would agree to its terms.

The Security Council approved the resolution in April, after a Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes in March against the Houthi rebels in support of the internationally recognized government.

Even with the approaching ceasefire, clashes intensified across several front lines in the country.

More than 27 fighters from both sides were killed in Taiz and Lahj provinces late Friday and Saturday, while 16 pro-government fighters and 10 Houthi fighters were killed in Jawf province, according to independent security officials. The Saudi-led coalition also continued to carry out air strikes against Houthi positions, according to the officials.

At least 2,695 civilians have died since the anti-Houthi airstrikes began in March, according to the U.N.