Yemen announces ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr | world | Hindustan Times
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Yemen announces ceasefire during Eid al-Fitr

world Updated: Sep 19, 2009 13:12 IST
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Yemen said on Saturday it would halt operations for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a war with northern rebels that saw dozens die this week, prompting calls for the government to better protect civilians.

"The government will cease military operations in the north western regions from this point forward," a statement in state media said, repeating demands insurgents return territory under their control and submit to central government authority.

The Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, is expected to start on Sunday and last for three days. The statement said the ceasefire would start on Saturday.

There was no response from the rebels, Shi'ite Zaydi Muslims in the Saada and Amran provinces, but a statement said the army had carried out three air raids and blown up houses in Saada city -- under government control -- on Friday.

Around 87 people died on Wednesday in an air raid at a makeshift camp for displaced persons at in Saada province, and two days earlier a market in the town of al-Talh was bombed.

The incidents met with wide condemnation from aid organisations and Yemeni rights groups. The United Nations top human rights official called on Yemen to carry out its obligation to civilians.

The leader of the former south Yemen republic -- exiled after a war with President Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces in 1994 -- told a gathering of southern separatists that Saleh's government had committed a war crime.

Instability in Yemen, which includes a revived campaign against foreign and government targets by Al-Qaeda over the past two years, has alarmed Western powers and neighbouring Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest oil producers.

The government in Sanaa says the rebels, referred to as Houthis after their clan leaders, want to restore a Shi'ite state that fell in the 1960s.
The rebels say they want autonomy and accuse Saleh of despotism and corruption in a drive to stay in power.

UN aid agencies say around 150,000 people have been made refugees since the fighting first began in 2004. They launched an appeal in Geneva last month for $23.5 million to help Yemen. Thousands are staying in tented camps in mountainous territory.

Media have had difficulty accessing the conflict zone and verifying conflicting reports from each side.