CAIRO, Dec 16 – Yemen’s dominant Houthi group and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government have accused each other of violating a ceasefire aimed at facilitating U.N.-sponsored peace talks, although the truce appeared to be largely holding on Wednesday.
The seven-day truce began at mid-day on Tuesday as representatives of Hadi’s government and the Iran-allied Houthis began talks in Switzerland to try to end nine months of fighting that has killed nearly 6,000 people and dragged in foreign powers.
Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman, a spokesman for Yemeni forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Houthis, said a “serious escalation by land, sea and air is taking place by the alliance in various areas”, according to the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency.
Luqman said strikes from the sea were taking place on the Red Sea port city of Hodaida, while ground forces continued to carry out attacks on Taiz city, in southwestern Yemen, while air strikes by the Arab coalition had not stopped.
“We will not stay hand-tied but we will respond strongly towards the breaches that are taking place by the alliance and their mercenaries,” Luqman said.
The Hadi-run sabanew.net news agency said five fighters from a force known as the Popular Resistance and three civilians died as a result of Houthi shelling in Taiz in the six hours after the ceasefire began.
The agency quoted a medical source as saying 17 people were wounded.
The Saudi-led coalition spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Al Assiri, said the alliance was committed to the ceasefire but was ready to respond to any violation by the Houthis, according to the Saudi Al Riyadh daily.
Speaking in Egypt, where he was accompanying Saudi deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman on an official visit, Assiri said the strategic objective of the coalition’s military operations was to restore security and stability to Yemen by restoring the legitimate government to power.