Yemenis welcome ceasefire with cautious optimism

Warring parties have agreed two-month truce beginning on first day of Ramadan

Yemenis displaced by civil war collect food aid and supplies in Hays district of Hodeidah province.  AFP
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Yemenis greeted news of a two-month truce announced on the eve of Ramadan with a mixture of hope and suspicion.

People living in the north, largely controlled by the Houthi rebels, were optimistic that the ceasefire could lead to lasting peace in Yemen after seven years of civil war.

But people in the government-controlled south feared it might only bring a lull in the fighting.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, late on Friday said that the warring sides “responded positively" to a UN proposal for a two-month truce, which comes into effect on April 2 at 7pm.

“The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders,” he said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the ceasefire and called for all parties to support it.

Mr Grundberg said the truce could pave the way for an end to the war, which the UN said has created the world's biggest humanitarian crisis and claimed nearly 250,000 lives.

The government and the Iran-backed rebels expressed support for the ceasefire. The Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government unilaterally declared a ceasefire for Ramadan on Wednesday.

Tariq Al Molaiki, who lives in the southern province of Taez, said that the ceasefire agreement appeared to be a turning point in the civil war and gave hope to Yemenis who have been struggling under harsh conditions created by the conflict.

I still doubt that the warring parties will comply with their commitments, but let us be optimistic. I pray to Allah that the parties respect their commitments and the truce holds
Tariq Al Molaiki, resident of Taez

“It is such big news. I can't wait to see the siege imposed around our province lifted, and the roads open again. I still doubt that the warring parties will comply with their commitments, but let us be optimistic. I pray to Allah that the parties respect their commitments and the truce holds,” Mr Al Molaiki told The National.

“We need the truce to be a foundation stone for a comprehensive political process that ends the war and paves the way for nationwide stability,” he said.

But Manea Al Shoreik, a businessman from the southern province of Aden, said the truce would only serve the interests of the Houthis.

“Such a truce is a victory for the Houthi rebels, no more. It was carefully designed to meet the Houthi demands,” he said.

“The truce will open the Sanaa airport and the Hodeidah harbour to enable the Houthis to gather more weapons and military equipment and regroup.”

Ali Qasim Bouhaibeh, a civil engineer from Marib, the only government-held province in northern Yemen, was cautiously optimistic.

“Usually, any truce reflects positively on the lives of the civilians, but if this truce doesn't succeed in lifting the siege imposed by the Houthis around Marib and open the main road to Al Bayda [province] then it means nothing for us because this road is a lifeline for six districts in southern Marib,” he said.

The ceasefire was announced days after the start of intra-Yemeni consultations on ending the civil war. The talks are being held in the Saudi capital Riyadh under the auspices of the Gulf Co-operation Council.

The Houthis objected to the venue and refused to attend.

Yemeni groups fighting on the government's side indicated they would abide by the ceasefire.

“We welcome the two-month truce announced by the UN special envoy and confirm a ceasefire over all the flashpoints,” Ali Al Katheri, spokesman for the Southern Transitional Council, told The National.

Gen Tariq Saleh, the commander of the National Resistance Forces, a division of the pro-government Joint Forces fighting the Houthis on Yemen's western coast, said he supported any steps to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis.

Sources in Marib, Hodeidah and on the front line in the southern province of Al Dhalea said there was a lull in fighting on Saturday morning.

Updated: April 03, 2022, 3:37 AM