Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, announced Monday that a ceasefire was set to go into effect after he received confirmation from all warring factions of their commitment. The 72-hour cessation of hostilities began at 11:59 p.m. local time on Wednesday night, with the possibility of further extension.
Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, foreign minister of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government, posted on his official Twitter account that the DCC—De-escalation and Coordination Committee, a U.N.-backed military coalition overseeing ceasefires in Yemen—had been activated. He also said that the ceasefire effectively lifted the siege of the contested city Taiz by Houthi rebels.
The ceasefire comes on the heels of international outcry over a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital of Sana’a that killed 140 people participating in a funeral procession. Officials of Saudi Arabia, which supports Hadi’s government, claimed that the deadly bombing was a result of bad intelligence from Hadi loyalists.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Special Envoy Cheikh Ahmed in London over the weekend. Kerry called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, but Monday’s announcement still came as a surprise to many after previous peace talks had ended without success. Most recently, Houthis rejected a U.N. peace plan after 90 days of negotiations in Kuwait. A ceasefire that was announced at the start of those talks was hardly observed and violated by both sides.
War broke out in September 2014 when Shia Houthis, allied with loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, overtook the capital city of Sana’a. Saudi Arabia, who accuses Iran of backing the Shia rebels, began a bombing campaign against the Houthis in March 2015, leading a coalition made up of mainly Sunni Arab countries. According to the UN, the fighting has left nearly 6,900 people dead with more than 35,000 wounded and at least three million displaced since March of last year.