Saudi-Led Coalition Announces Yemen Ceasefire Over Virus Concerns

Saudi forces seen at a military base in southern Yemen in 2015

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Ansar Allah insurgent group in Yemen has announced a two-week ceasefire in an effort to help stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus COVID-19 in the war-ravaged country.

The ceasefire, which began early Thursday, will last until April 23. The Saudi Press Agency quoted coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki as saying that the pause in fighting was enacted in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and as a confidence-building measure between the coalition and Ansar Allah. Saudi Arabia has been leading a military operation since 2015 to oust Ansar Allah from Sana’a, the capital of the country, though the war has largely ground into a stalemate.

Ansar Allah rejected the temporary ceasefire. Bloomberg News quoted a member of the group’s leadership council as saying Ansar Allah would not accept “partial or patchwork solutions,” seeking instead “a full ceasefire and lifting of the blockade” that has been in place for years.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Muhammed al-Bukhaiti, a spokesman for the insurgents, said, “We will continue to fight and target their military installations and industrial sites since they continue with the siege. So we don’t consider it to be a ceasefire.” Throughout the war, Ansar Allah has launched a large number of missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities and other infrastructure in the Kingdom’s southwest.

The United Nations has pushed for a political solution to the conflict, including a cessation of hostilities, especially in light of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 could prove particularly deadly in Yemen, as the multiyear war has shattered the country’s health system and left it short on key necessities, including medical supplies.

U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said in a statement earlier in April that the envoy has sought a “nationwide ceasefire” that would “foster joint efforts to counter the threat of COVID-19.”

While pandemic monitors are not currently reporting cases in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has over 3,200 cases of the virus and 44 deaths.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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