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Yemen Cease Fire Instantly Violated by Saudi Airstrikes, Houthi Shelling

The much-touted seven-day cease fire in Yemen began on Tuesday afternoon and lasted maybe an hour, before there were reports of both Saudi warplanes dropping bombs on Houthi insurgents, and the Houthis shelling a loyalist stronghold. Naturally, each side blames the other for breaking the agreement.

“Despite the truce, Saudi-led air strikes hit positions of the Houthi group in two conflict zones on Wednesday,” according to Reuters.

A spokesman for insurgent Yemeni military forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of the Houthis, described these strikes as “a serious escalation by land, sea, and air” from the Saudi-led coalition.

“Coalition planes launched an air strike on the positions of the Houthis and Saleh forces in the Najd area of Sirwah district after they repeatedly violated the ceasefire,” said a “tribal source” in the central province of Mareb.

There were also reports of airstrikes from the Saudi coalition in the southwestern city of Taiz, but those reports say Houthi forces launched a rocket barrage from the area first.  Saleh’s forces also said ground forces were moving against Taiz despite the cease-fire.

Al-Arabiya reports Yemen’s Prime Minister, Khaled Bahah, called upon the Houthis to “surrender their weapons and arms and leave the government institutions to restore legitimacy.”

Instead, the Houthis “attacked pro-government forces in the eastern Maarib province, killing 15 fighters,” according to military and medical sources quoted by Al-Arabiya.

There is, nevertheless, a general sense that the cease fire is holding up well enough for peace talks in Switzerland to continue. Reuters reports an agreement on a major prisoner swap was reached Wednesday, in which 360 Houthis would be exchanged for 265 civilians and fighters held captive by the insurgents. In fact, the two groups of prisoners were reportedly already under transport to the location of the exchange in central Yemen.

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