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Yemen’s warring parties have laid down their arms for the first national truce since 2016, with all eyes on holding the UN-brokered ceasefire.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have both agreed to observe the two-month truce, which came into effect on Saturday on the first day of Ramadan, the holy month of Muslim fasting.

“The two-month truce began at 7:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT) tonight. From tonight, all offensive military operations by land, air and sea must cease,” UN special envoy Hans Grundberg said in a statement. a statement.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree confirmed “our commitment to a complete cessation of military operations as long as the other side adheres to it”, in a statement released by the rebels.

Yemen’s intractable war has killed hundreds of thousands directly or indirectly and displaced millions, triggering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

Previous ceasefires have been ineffective. A national truce before the April 2016 peace talks was violated almost immediately, as were other ceasefires that year.

A 2018 deal to end hostilities around the rebel-held port of Hodeidah, a lifeline for the Arab world’s poorest country, has also been largely ignored.

Both the Houthis and Saudi Arabia have welcomed the latest move, which follows an upsurge in attacks but also growing diplomacy, including ongoing talks – snubbed by the rebels – in Riyadh.

“This time, I am optimistic. This truce is different from all previous ones,” said Asmaa Zayed, a student who also works as a cashier in Hodeidah.

“The fact that this is happening with Ramadan gives us a lot of hope. This war started when I was 15 and turned all my dreams into nightmares.

Under the agreement, all military land, air and sea operations in Yemen and across its borders must cease.

Eighteen tankers will be allowed into Hodeidah and two commercial flights a week can resume to and from Sanaa, which is also in rebel hands – two key demands from the insurgents before they consider peace talks. peace.

The two sides also agreed to meet to open roads in Taez and other governorates, Grundberg said. The truce could be renewed with the consent of both parties.

“The success of this initiative will depend on the continued commitment of the warring parties to implement the truce agreement with the accompanying humanitarian measures,” the Swedish diplomat said.

“I also hope that the goodwill we have seen from all sides in public translates into a long-term de-escalation of inflammatory media rhetoric and hate speech.”

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said in a tweet: “Seven years of war have inflicted a lot of pain. We urge the parties to meet the conditions and pave the way for a lasting ceasefire and an inclusive political peace process. »

Saudi Arabia has expressed ‘support’ for the UN ceasefire, which has also been welcomed by US President Joe Biden, UN chief António Guterres, European Union and British leaders , French and Iraqi.

The question now is whether the truce will be respected.

The war in Yemen began when the Houthis took control of Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led intervention in March the following year to support the toppled government.

It plunged what was already the poorest country in the Arab world into years of crisis, with failing infrastructure and services and 80% of the 30 million people dependent on aid.

“Everything around us stinks of death and war,” said Zayed, the student from Hodeidah. “I think I’m going to sink into a depression if this truce ends or fails.”

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