Houthi Official in Yemen Offers Border Truce, Amnesty

A senior official of a Houthi-backed political council has invited all fighters to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold
Houthi Official in Yemen  Offers Border Truce, AmnestyHouthi Official in Yemen  Offers Border Truce, Amnesty

A top official in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement on Sunday offered to stop attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group, if the kingdom stopped airstrikes and lifted a near blockade on the country.

The move falls short of demands by Yemen’s government and their backers in Saudi Arabia, but offers rare hope for a pause to 18 months of fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people and pushed impoverished Yemen toward famine, Reuters reported.

“(In exchange for) stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the airstrikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return (we will) stop combat operations on the border,” Saleh al-Samad, the chief of a Houthi-backed political council, said in a speech.

Hailing from Yemen’s Zaydi Shia sect, the Houthis seized the capital Sana’a in 2014.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore power to the fugitive president Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. He was forced to flee the country after Houthi fighters and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh took over the capital and other parts of the country in September 2014.

The coalition has launched thousands of airstrikes on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen’s Army but has failed to push them out of the capital.

An annual UN report on children and armed conflict said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60% of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year.

A near-blockade on Yemen’s ports, which the coalition says is aimed at arms bound to the Houthis, has also hobbled Yemen’s already struggling economy and created a humanitarian crisis.

For months, the Houthis have retaliated Saudi-led coalition airstrikes with attacks on Saudi Arabia from its mountainous strongholds in northern Yemen and has launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at the kingdom, all of which were intercepted.

Fighting has also raged within the country between pro-Houthi and pro-government militiamen, soldiers and tribal gunmen—a tangle of armed groups so complex that any peace initiative would struggle to contain them.

Samad said the group was prepared to pardon its foes.

“(We call) all fighters on the side of the aggression on the various fronts to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold,” he said.

Two shaky truces accompanied previous efforts mediated by the United Nations to end the conflict, and the leader of the Houthi group warned last week that the conflict would last “God knows how long”.

Hadi wants the Houthis to heed a 2015 UN Security Council Resolution mandating that they quit Yemen’s main cities.

Saudi Arabia, which has been indiscriminately killing civilians and attacking schools and hospitals, has said the conflict is an internal Yemeni matter and that it will not negotiate with the Houthis.

The 16-month civil war has so far killed 6,500 people, displaced more than 2.5 million and caused a humanitarian catastrophe in a country with a per capita gross domestic product the World Bank last estimated at only $1,097 in 2013.