Saudi Arabia has proposed a five-day ceasefire in Yemen in order to allow in desperately needed supplies. News of a ceasefire comes as humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate inside Yemen, according to several aid agencies and with the United Nations reporting that more than 1,400 people have been killed and 300,000 have fled their homes during the conflict.
Speaking in Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels were in discussions on when to start the humanitarian ceasefire.
“We particularly welcome a new Saudi initiative to try to bring about a peaceful resolution through the announcement of their intent to establish a full, five-day, renewable ceasefire and humanitarian pause,” Kerry said.
“This ceasefire is conditioned on the Houthis agreeing to live by these same commitments,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minster Adel al-Jubeir said the ceasefire was conditional on the Houthis complying with it.
“The pause will affect all of Yemen for a period of five days,” al-Jubeir said. “The actual date will be announced shortly as well as the requirements,” he added.
Yemen government, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia in March, had earlier urged the United Nations to launch a ground operation to prevent the Houthis from making new gains in the country.
“We urge the international community to quickly intervene by land forces to save Yemen, especially Aden and Taiz,” it said in a statement.
As talk of a humanitarian ceasefire continues, Wednesday was a particularly violent day across Yemen, with at least 120 people killed in fighting. Most of the killed were civilians, including at least 40 who were trying to flee Aden in a boat that was struck by the Houthi rebels. Earlier in the week, attacks from Yemen targeted the southern Saudi cities of Najran and Jazan, something that Saudi Arabia said was a ‘red line’.
“The security of Saudi Arabia is a red line that has been crossed and the Houthis will pay the price,” Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said on Thursday.
On Tuesday, 22 major aid agencies in Yemen warned “their life-saving assistance risks coming to an abrupt end within a week unless land, sea, and air routes are opened immediately for the importation of fuel”.
Immediate supplies were needed for millions in Yemen, according to Oxfam’s director in the country.
“An immediate and permanent end to the conflict must be found now and land, sea and air routes must be re-opened to allow basic commodities like food, fuel and medical supplies to reach millions in desperate need,” Grace Ommer said.
A Saudi-led coalition began its military campaign on March 26 to reimpose both stability and the internationally recognized leader, President Hadi. The Houthis, largely believed to be backed by Iran, overtook the capital of Sanaa last September and have made gains southward into the cities of Aden and Taiz, promoting Saudi Arabia to launch its operation on its southern neighbor.