Saudi-led forces say broken Yemen truce will not be renewed

November 21, 2016 2:21 AM EST

Pro-government fighters ride in the trunk of a car in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub


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By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - A two-day ceasefire after nearly two years of war in Yemen expired at midday (0900 GMT) on Monday would not be renewed, a spokesman for a Saudi-led military coalition told al-Arabiya TV, with each side blaming the other for violations.

The 48-hour truce, announced unilaterally by the Saudi coalition on Friday, failed to halt fighting across the country between the Iran-aligned Houthis and Saudi-led forces.

Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive on the side of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government in March 2015 after the Houthis, backed by government troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, advanced on Hadi's temporary headquarters in Aden.

Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The 20-month conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than three million.

Residents in the capital Sanaa said that Saudi-led coalition jets had bombed army bases on a mountain overlooking the city earlier on Monday, and the force of the explosions had shaken buildings in several city neighborhoods.

Sanaa is controlled by the Houthis, who still hold vast swathes of Yemen. Despite Saudi-led forces gaining territory from the northern Yemeni rebels, they have not succeeded in restoring Hadi to power.

OBSERVERS

An official from the Saudi-led coalition told Reuters that it would like the international community to deploy neutral observers on the ground to help monitor any future ceasefire.

"To help apply a future ceasefire, observers on the ground who can certify any truce is what the coalition is looking for, provided the legitimate Yemeni government agrees," he said, referring to Hadi's government.

The official said that the coalition had recorded 563 violations of the truce by the Houthis and their allies in Yemen's military inside the country during the weekend ceasefire, and 163 more across the border in Saudi Arabia.

Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for Yemen's exiled government, declined to comment on the proposed deployment of observers but said Houthi violations had made extending the truce meaningless.

A spokesman for Yemen's pro-Houthi military said in a statement that coalition and pro-Hadi forces had violated the truce 114 times and that its forces had "reserved the right to respond to violations and abuses of aggression".

Visiting neighboring Oman last Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that both sides had agreed to a deal whereby the Houthis would quit Yemen's major cities and the factions would form a national unity government.

But Hadi's government rejected the announcement that the warring parties had agreed to an open-ended truce and to work toward forming a joint government.

It said it was not consulted about the accord and objected to demands that the Houthis withdraw from cities they had captured since 2014.

The Houthis have also said the ceasefire was designed to undermine the agreement reached in Oman.

The Saudi coalition has made no comment on the deal.

(Additional reporting by William Maclean; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Louise Ireland)



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