Patchy ceasefire holds in Yemen ahead of peace talks

A shaky truce is in place in Yemen under a UN-backed effort to end a war that has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

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The war-damaged capital, Sanaa, has had a quiet night but residents say fighting flared in the southwestern city of Taiz.

Blaming each other for the violence in Taiz are Yemen’s government, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, and its Iranian-allied Houthi adversaries.

The government accuses Houthis of using heavy artillery within moments of the start of the truce, while the Houthis say coalition planes attacked the city three times.

There have been no reports of violence in the capital, Sanaa, or the main southern port city of Aden, where coalition fighters expelled Houthi forces in July.

United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, says he is hopeful the ceasefire will remain in place.

“There’s been one or two places where there seems to be problems but I think, given the fact that it’s 24 hours, then I think it’s what’s expected. But I think the monitoring committees and the people keeping an eye on things on the ground, one would hope that once they start informing of those violations or skirmishes then things will take hold and die down but at the moment there are a few places (where there’s violence) but in general it seems to be going quite well.”

Yemen was plunged into conflict when Houthi rebels seized the capital just over a year ago.

Just months later, a Saudi-led coalition began bombing rebel groups.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while 2.4 million people have been displaced as a result of fighting.

The conflict has caused a humanitarian disaster, with the UN World Food Program estimating nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine.

Mr McGoldrick says the UN is hoping to use the truce as an opportunity to deliver aid to communities most in need.

“Obviously we have to be flexible because the actual ceasefire won’t kick in, won’t hold easily or consistently across all the areas. And all of the groups involved, all of us accept that the ceasefire would be problematic but the main ones seem to be working right now and we hope that holds.”

A spokesman for the governate of Aden, Ghassan Al-Shouaibi, says he hopes the Houthi rebels maintain the ceasefire.

“It is very strange if they keep the promise or the truce but if they violate the truce, it is not strange for them. They have violated the unity and agreement document, they violated truces in six wars, they violated the first ceasefire and they are still and they will violate any upcoming truce.”

These residents in Sanaa say they hope this latest ceasefire will bring peace to the country.

“We hope this truce will be a serious truce, and that all parties will stick to it. I want peace to prevail in the country.”

“We want a ceasefire, peace, we’re against chaos. Because we’re exhausted by this war for a whole year and we want a truce.”

Peace talks aimed at ending the conflict are set to begin in Kuwait next week.