RIYADH: Fighting has largely stopped in Yemen’s main battlefields as rival factions stick to the UN-brokered humanitarian truce, local military officials told Arab News on Saturday.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, announced on Friday that the Iran-backed Houthis and the internationally recognized government had agreed to a two-month truce which would come into effect on Saturday, the first day of Ramadan.
The parties agreed to halt land, air and cross-border strikes, allow tankers to enter the port of Hodeidah, allow flights to take off and land at Sanaa airport and lift the siege of Taiz.
Local officials said fighting and shelling between government troops and the Houthis has largely diminished in the central province of Marib and outside the city of Taiz, amid reports that the Houthis continue to gather forces in Marib.
“The fighting has stopped in Marib. There is a limited exchange of mortar and heavy weapon fire and the enemy is deploying forces,” a military official told Arab News on condition of anonymity, adding that army troops and members of the allied tribes were preparing for truce violations by the Houthis.
Thousands of fighters and civilians have been killed since early last year in Marib province when the Houthis resumed a major offensive to take control of the energy-rich city of Marib, the Yemeni government’s last stronghold in the northern part of the country.
Despite aggressive missile, drone and ground attacks on the city, the Houthis failed to take control of the city and claimed thousands of lives.
Yemeni experts believe the Houthis, who have long rejected many similar calls for a truce, were forced to accept the latest UN-brokered ceasefire after failing to invade Marib.
In the city of Taiz, the main battlegrounds were calm on Saturday as Houthis and army troops ended hostilities for the first time in years, but residents called on the Iranian-backed militia to immediately lift its grip on the city.
Colonel Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a military officer, told Arab News over the phone that government forces held the truce as the Houthis also halted shelling and attacks on the densely populated city. “There is relative calm on all fronts here in Taiz,” Al-Baher said.
The Houthis have besieged Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, for more than seven years after failing to take control of the city center.
They positioned forces on the outskirts of the city, preventing people from leaving or crossing the city and shooting down those who approached their positions.
Al-Baher said the siege should be lifted, along with the truce, as it suffocated the city and pushed thousands to the brink of starvation. “The truce (has) no meaning if the siege of Taiz is not lifted. Siege is a form of warfare,” he said.
“The Houthis blocked the roads to Taiz with large rocks and sandbags and planted a large number of landmines. They targeted all living things, including cats and dogs, he said.