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Everyone Is Ignoring the Ceasefire in Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition, Houthi rebels, and other armed groups have all seemingly ignored a UN-brokered humanitarian pause that was supposed to start Friday.

by Samuel Oakford
Jul 11 2015, 9:05pm

Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA

The Saudi-led coalition, Houthi rebels, and various other armed groups active in Yemen have all seemingly ignored a UN-brokered humanitarian pause in the country, casting doubt on international efforts to bring aid to some 21 million Yemenis in need of assistance.

The truce, which was set to begin one minute before midnight local time on Friday and last until the end of Ramadan on July 17, was punctuated within hours by airstrikes in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as in the southern cities of Taiz and Aden. According to Reuters, fighting between the Houthi rebels and local militias continued in the two southern cities.

One senior aid official involved in the humanitarian response in Yemen told VICE News that his team in Aden said "the whole night they were hearing air strikes and shelling."

"It seems there is confusion [regarding the pause], similar to the first truce back in May," said the official, who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity, referring to an earlier pause coordinated by the UN.

On Saturday, state-run Saudi television cited the coalition as saying the government of Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is currently in Riyadh, had not told the coalition to cease its strikes.

Related: Yemen's Humanitarian Crisis Is a 'Catastrophe' as Civilians Bear the Brunt

A man walks past a building destroyed by an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, on July 11, 2015. (Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA)

That account conflicted with the UN's announcement of the truce on Thursday, when it explained that Hadi "has communicated his acceptance of the pause to the Coalition to ensure their support and collaboration."

A UN spokeswoman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Thursday that the UN received additional assurances from "the Houthis, the General People's Congress, and other parties that the pause will be fully respected, and that there will be no violations from any combatants under their control."

Though some violations were expected to take place, the UN's call that assaults not be met with retribution went unheard as night fell on the first day of the truce. On social media, Yemenis in Sanaa said airstrikes had continued.

Related: Yemen Jailbreak Frees 1,200 Inmates, Including al Qaeda Suspects

More than 3,000 people — about half of them civilians — have been killed across Yemen amid fighting and bombings since the start of coalition airstrikes in late March.

On Thursday, the European Parliament condemned those airstrikes and a Saudi blockade of the country, saying they "have led to thousands of deaths, have further destabilized Yemen, have created conditions more conducive to the expansion of terrorist and extremist organizations such as ISIS/Da'esh and AQAP, and have exacerbated an already critical humanitarian situation." ISIS and Da'esh are alternate names for the so-called Islamic State, and AQAP refers to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the extremist group's affiliate in Yemen. The Houthis, who are accused of receiving financial and military support from Iran, have also fought against al Qaeda in Yemen. 

According to multiple reports, drone strikes — believed to be American —  killed 10 suspected al Qaeda members on Friday evening in the port city of Mukalla, capital of Hadramawt province. VICE News could not independently confirm the attack or the identities of those who died. 

Watch the VICE News documentary, Inside War-Torn Yemen: Sanaa Under Attack: