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Yemeni Rebels to Halt Rocket Fire      11/19 06:12

   SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- A senior leader of Yemen's Shiite rebels said on Monday 
that the group will halt rocket fire into Saudi Arabia for the sake of peace 
efforts, answering a key Saudi demand in the first public sign of hope for the 
latest push to stop the bloodshed and civilian suffering in the Arab world's 
poorest country.

   For the past three years, a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has been waging 
war against the rebels, known as Houthis, to restore Yemen's internationally 
recognized government to power. The rebels say they had been excluded from that 
government and took power to rectify historic grievances against central 
authority.

   The rebel leader, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in a statement to journalists 
that the Iran-backed rebels ordered the cessation of rocket and drone attacks 
on the Saudis and forces loyal to coalition member the United Arab Emirates at 
the request of U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths.

   "We are ready to freeze and stop military operations on all fronts in order 
to achieve peace," al-Houthi said, mentioning the rockets specifically as part 
of a longer statement in which he blamed the United States for being the main 
driver for what he called "the aggression" against Yemen.

   Yemen's civil war began in the wake of its Arab Spring uprising, when the 
Houthis swept down from their northern stronghold and took the capital, Sanaa, 
in 2014, with the help of troops loyal to Yemen's former strongman, Ali 
Abdullah Saleh. The government fled the following year, and Saudi Arabia, 
citing fears that its nemesis Iran was using the Shiite leanings of the revolt 
to make inroads on the Arabian Peninsula, began launching airstrikes against 
the rebels.

   Riyadh formed a coalition of Sunni Arab states, including the UAE, Kuwait, 
Egypt and Sudan, and launched ground assaults on several fronts but failed to 
take the capital. After some major setbacks, it began outsourcing the ground 
fighting to local troops, including a group trained by the UAE in the south.

   The latest Saudi-led offensive, which began last summer, has been focused on 
capturing the key rebel-held port city of Hodeida, through which almost all of 
Yemen's food and desperately needed humanitarian aid flows.

   Griffiths, the U.N. envoy, announced on Friday that both sides had agreed to 
attend talks in Sweden "soon" aimed at ending the conflict. His announcement 
followed an informal de-escalation last week around Hodeida, although fighting 
has continued on the ground in other areas.

   It was not immediately to what extent the Houthi move on stopping missile 
fire into the kingdom would stop the overall violence.

   Truces rarely hold entirely in Yemen's disorderly civil war, where fighting 
is on several fronts, and peace talks attempts abroad have repeatedly broken 
down.

   An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the war so far, and 
two-thirds of Yemen's 27 million-strong population relies on aid. More than 8 
million are at risk of starvation in what has become the world's worst 
humanitarian disaster.


(KA)

 
 
 
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