DUBAI/ADEN - Yemen’s exiled government said on Monday it expects a deal shortly on a humanitarian ceasefire that would run through the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month, as air strikes by Saudi-led warplanes killed more than 40 people.
The United Nations has been pushing for a halt to fighting and air raids that have killed nearly 3,000 people in Yemen since March when a Saudi-led coalition intervened against Houthi forces in a bid to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The government, exiled in Riyadh, said talks were focused on implementing an April UN resolution calling for the Iranian-allied Houthis to quit cities seized since September and for aid supplies to be sent to stricken Yemeni civilians.
“We are now in consultations for guarantees to ensure the success of the truce,” Hadi spokesman Rajeh Badi told Reuters.
“The mechanism we presented to implement (the UN resolution) demanded real guarantees to ensure aid is delivered to those who need it,” he said, noting that talks were underway to “lift the deliberate siege on Aden, Taiz, Lahj and Dhalea”.
Major cities in central and southern Yemen have been racked by heavy fighting between the Houthis and a patchwork of military, regional and tribal forces allied with Hadi.
Badi said a sought-after “humanitarian pause” would last through the end of the three-day Eid, due to start on July 17. The Houthis have also signalled readiness to honour a truce.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said last week in a Facebook post he had discussed the matter with UN Yemen envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Muscat, Oman. Cheikh Ahmed flew to Sanaa on Sunday for talks with the Houthis.
The United Nations last week designated the war in Yemen as a Level 3 humanitarian crisis, its most severe category, and the United States and the European Union have endorsed calls for a humanitarian suspension of hostilities.
On Friday, the United Nations alerted aid groups that a truce could start soon and advised them to be ready to start shipping aid.
The United Nations engineered a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in May but aid groups said it did not last long enough to cover all of Yemen’s needs.
In southern Yemen, a bombing run by Saudi-led warplanes killed more than 40 people at a livestock market in the town of al-Foyoush, on the road between the major port of Aden and the province of Lahj, the Houthi-run Saba news agency reported.
Local residents said the strike, apparently targeting a nearby Houthi checkpoint, killed 30 people, including 10 members of the group, while the rest were civilians.
The Houthi-run agency said 42 people in all had died in Saudi-led strikes across the country on Monday.
Overnight on Sunday, Saudi-led military planes destroyed the main headquarters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party in Sanaa, a senior party official and residents said.
Saleh is an ally of the Houthi group and still enjoys the loyalty of much of the armed forces more than four years after being forced to step down by mass ‘Arab Spring’ protests.
On Sunday, at least five civilians were killed when shells fired by Houthi forces stationed north of Aden landed on a kindergarten in Mansoura district used to house displaced Yemenis from the port city, residents said.
Local fighters also said they killed up to 30 Houthi combatants in an area known as al-Basateen north of Aden on Sunday. It was not immediately possible to confirm the report.