News / Middle East

Yemen Accuses Rebels of Breaking Truce

Heather Murdock

The Yemeni government is accusing the northern rebel army of violating the first cease-fire agreement in four months, less than an hour after it began. A Yemeni official said at least one government soldier was killed in the attack by the reblels in Saada province and several others were wounded.  The rebels have not yet responded to the accusation.  

This morning, the top story in the Yemeni state-run news was titled: War is Over.  By evening, a senior Yemeni official had accused the rebel army, the Houthis, of opening fire on a government convoy in its territories.

Yemen's Deputy Interior Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Qawsi said a security office was also attacked, and he was shot at less than an hour after the cease-fire began.  

This comes after both sides declared a cease-fire on Thursday night. Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh announced the end to military operations. And the rebel leader, Abdel Malek al-Houthi, publicly agreed to the cease-fire.

The agreement calls for the rebels to withdraw from government buildings, free prisoners and stop cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia.  The government agreed to stop military operations against the rebels.

In September the last agreed-upon cease-fire lasted less than two hours. Since then, both sides have repeatedly blamed the other for attacking first.

Mohammed al-Kibsi, the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Observer, and a reporter who has been covering the war since it began in 2004, says this time, he thought, the cease-fire is for real.

"I think it is the end because both sides are tired, and there is the intention for peace now," said Mohammed al-Kibsi.

Al-Kibsi says the Yemeni government is under international pressure to re-focus security priorities to battle al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Southern Separatist Movement. Both organizations want the fragile Western-allied central government to fall.

For years the Houthis have denied being rebels, saying they are only defending tehmselves against violent political and religiious oppression.  The Yemeni government says the Houthis are terrorists.  And with active support for the Yemeni army from Saudi Arabia, many believe that the conflict could turn into a proxy war between powerful regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.  International aid organizations say at least 200,000 people have been displaced by the war.

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