The UN-sponsored ceasefire in Yemen completed one month earlier this week. Though no major fighting was reported between the parties of the war during the Ramadan period, raising expectations of its extension, the Houthis have accused the Saudi Arabia-led coalition of violating the provisions of the truce in several ways.
The rare ceasefire came into force on April 2 on the occasion of the beginning of the month of Ramadan. According to the terms of the truce, both the parties had to cease their military offensives against each other and the Saudi-led coalition was to partially end the seven-year-long land, sea and air blockade of Yemen. The blockade has deprived millions of Yemenis of crucial supplies such as oil, gas, food and medicines.
The success of the temporary truce could be a significant stimulus for future peace talks to end the seven-year-long war which has devastated the lives of millions of Yemenis. The Houthis had offered to extend the truce permanently if the Saudi-led coalition lifted the blockade and seized its airstrikes.
Saudi blockade continues
One of the main conditions on which the Houthis had agreed to the ceasefire was the opening of the Sanaa international airport and the Hodeidah port. This is crucial for the supply of essential commodities into the country which heavily depends on imported goods. The opening of Sanaa airport would have facilitated the much awaited visit of relatives from the Gulf and elsewhere. Most Yemenis working outside the country have not been able to meet their relatives for the last seven years due to the blockade.
The peace agreement had provided for 18 fuel ships to Hodeidah and two weekly flights to and from the Sanaa airport apart from lifting of road blockades.
The Houthi-led administration has claimed that aside from refusal to completely end the land, naval and air blockade imposed since 2015, the coalition forces have also violated the ceasefire agreement in several other ways, including by carrying out airstrikes in Marib and Hodeidah.
On May 4, the Houthis claimed to have shot down a spy jet inside their territory. They also claimed a Saudi airstrike in the Hajjah area.
However, other sources have denied such reports and claimed that during the first month of the ceasefire, no airstrikes were carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.
Earlier this week, the head of the Yemeni peace delegation, Mohammad Abdul Salam, had claimed in a twitter post that not allowing planes to the Sanaa airport constitutes violation of the ceasefire agreement facilitated by the UN.
Last month’s promise of the first flight from the Sanaa international airport in seven years did not materialize. The first such flight scheduled on April 24 was canceled over the Saudi coalition’s insistence that passports for travelers should be issued by the government it recognizes and not by the National Salvation Government supported by the Houthis.
Some ships to Hodeidah port have also been obstructed. According to Xinhua, the coalition forces prevented a ship carrying cooking gas from landing at the port. They have been holding the ship for weeks now.
Dire need for peace
According to the UN, the war in Yemen is one of the worst humanitarian crises ever and has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Millions have been displaced and forced to live without basic amenities. More than three quarters of the Yemeni population is today dependent on some kind of humanitarian aid.
Hans Grundberg, UN special envoy to Yemen, has emphasized the importance of the truce for addressing some of the vital concerns of the Yemeni citizens. He also expressed hope that despite difficulties, attempts are being made to extend the ceasefire.
The relative success of the ceasefire and the reduction in the number of airstrikes has also raised the hopes of common Yemenis in war zones who want the ceasefire to be converted into a permanent peace and their suffering to be over. However, some observers have also cautioned that this could be a moment for the warring sides, especially the Saudi-led coalition to regroup before a fresh offensive.
According to AntiWar.com, in the seven years of war, the Saudi coalition had carried out 25,054 airstrikes inside Yemen causing at least 19,226 civilian casualties.
The US, which has been a major backer of the Saudi coalition’s war in Yemen by supplying it weapons and technical assistance during the airstrikes for years, has also expressed hope that the ceasefire should be extended.