Houthis to end Saudi Arabia attacks


Tue, Nov 20, 2018 - Page 6

A senior leader of Yemen’s Shiite rebels yesterday said the group would halt rocket fire into Saudi Arabia for the sake of peace efforts, answering a key Saudi demand in the first public sign of hope for the latest push to stop the bloodshed and civilian suffering in the Arab world’s poorest country.

For the past three years, a US-backed, Saudi-led coalition has been waging war against the rebels, known as Houthis, to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government to power.

The rebels say they had been excluded from that government and took power to rectify historic grievances against central authority.

Rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said in a statement to journalists that the Iran-backed rebels ordered the cessation of rocket and drone attacks on the Saudis and forces loyal to coalition member the United Arab Emirates at the request of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths.

“We are ready to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts in order to achieve peace,” al-Houthi said, mentioning the rockets specifically as part of a longer statement in which he blamed the US for being the main driver for what he called “the aggression” against Yemen.

Yemen’s civil war began in the wake of its Arab Spring uprising, when the Houthis swept down from their northern stronghold and took the capital, Sana’a, in 2014, with the help of troops loyal to Yemen’s former strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The government fled the following year, and Saudi Arabia, citing fears that Iran was using the Shiite leanings of the revolt to make inroads on the Arabian Peninsula, began launching airstrikes against the rebels.

The latest Saudi Arabian-led offensive, which began last summer, has been focused on capturing the key rebel-held port city of Hodeida, through which almost all of Yemen’s food and desperately needed humanitarian aid flows.

Griffiths on Friday said that both sides had agreed to attend talks in Sweden “soon” aimed at ending the conflict.

His announcement followed an informal de-escalation last week around Hodeida, although fighting has continued in other areas.