Sanaa: Saudi-led coalition airstrikes came to a halt in Yemen early today after a five-day humanitarian truce went into effect, witnesses and security officials have said.
However, ground fighting broke out almost immediately in the restive city of Taiz following random shelling by Shiite Houthi rebels in three neighborhoods, they said.
The battle fronts in Aden and Lahj have quieted, residents said, with an occasional volley of gunfire heard in the area.
The Saudi-led and US-backed coalition of mainly Gulf Arab countries has been waging an air campaign since March against the Iran-supported rebels, who control most of northern Yemen and the capital, Sanaa.
The pause declared by the Saudi-led coalition began at 11:59 pm, local time, yesterday. It is intended to help allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to ease the suffering of civilians in the Arab world's poorest country.
The coalition made the unexpected announcement about the humanitarian pause on Saturday. The statement, carried on Saudi state media, said the coalition will cease military operations, but that it will respond should Houthi rebels or their allies conduct any military actions or movements.
The rebels, known as Houthis, have expressed doubt over the truce. One Houthi official said it will likely mark "the beginning of a new war." Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, the head of the Houthi's Revolutionary Council, said yesterday that the group had not received official notification of the truce from the United Nations.
Two previous humanitarian truces in Yemen did not hold. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the coalition's announcement of the cease-fire and urged the Houthis and other parties to suspend military operations and "maintain the humanitarian pause for the sake of all the Yemeni people," Ban's spokesman said. Ban also urged all sides "to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Yemen."
Earlier on yesterday, Saudi-backed Yemeni troops and their allies clashed with Houthi rebels in a strategic town north of the port city of Aden, security and military officials from both sides of the conflict said.