Yemeni Houthis suspend strikes in Saudi Arabia for three days



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RIYADH (Reuters) -Yemen’s Houthi group said on Saturday it would suspend missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia for three days, in a peace initiative it said could be a lasting commitment if the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen would stop the air strikes and would lift port restrictions.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from a Saudi Aramco oil storage facility after an attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on March 26, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The group also announced a three-day suspension of ground offensive operations in Yemen, including in the gas-producing region of Marib, Mahdi al-Mashat, the head of the Houthis’ political bureau, said in a televised speech.

“This is a sincere invitation and practical steps to restore confidence and bring all parties from the arena of talks to the arena of acts,” Mashat said.

The unilateral initiative came as the war between the Iran-affiliated group and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition entered its eighth year, and the violence has worsened in recent months. The conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and millions have been confronted with famine and disease.

The Saudi-led coalition stormed the Houthi-controlled seaports of Hodeidah and Salif with airstrikes on Saturday, a day after the group carried out wide-ranging attacks on Saudi Arabia, including an oil facility in Jeddah, sparking a massive fire that caused a big fire. large black plume of smoke.

Crude oil prices rose more than 1% to more than $120 a barrel on Friday following the attacks in Jeddah.

CONDITIONS STATE FIRE

The lifting of restrictions imposed by coalition warships on Yemen’s Red Sea ports is a key Houthis condition for a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia says there is no blockade on the ports and that it only prevents arms smuggling.

Saturday’s initiative would stand if the coalition reopened ports and halted its air strikes, Mashat said, adding that the group would extend the suspension of ground operations if Saudi Arabia announced the withdrawal of foreign troops from Yemen and stopped supporting local militias.

The kingdom is unlikely to agree to such terms, as Riyadh is pushing for a comprehensive ceasefire to coincide with the reopening of Sanaa’s ports and airport.

The Saudi-led coalition last year offered a unilateral ceasefire. The Houthis rejected the offer, saying that the humanitarian situation and the reopening of ports had to be addressed before peace talks could take place.

Mashat said the group was ready to release all detainees, including the brother of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The United Nations is also seeking a temporary truce for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan beginning in April, and ahead of hosting Yemeni parties in Riyadh for talks later this month.

The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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