Saudi Arabia and the military coalition it heads in Yemen has agreed to a ceasefire and truce with the Houthi rebel militia, in efforts to form a united front against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Saudi decision to halt its military operations in the country and agree to the ceasefire comes shortly after its acceptance by two opposing Yemeni sides – the internationally-recognised government of ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Iran-backed Houthi militia who have controlled the capital Sanaa since 2015 in the country's ongoing five-year-long civil war.
Riyadh's support for the ceasefire was welcomed by the chair of the Houthi's Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi yesterday, who expressed his hopes on his Twitter account that Saudi Arabia would continue the ceasefire and that it would "translate [into] practice."
The agreement to the ceasefire among all conflicting parties in Yemen comes a week after UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called for the cessation, echoed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday. Guterres also urged for a global ceasefire in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic currently plaguing countries around the world, which has so far killed over 22,000 worldwide.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus and its spread in the Middle East – especially Iran – countries in the region have implemented strict measures such as mandatory curfews and the closure of public institutions. Congregational prayers at mosques are no longer being held, public transport has shut down and travel to international destinations banned. Prisoners have been released in order to prevent them from becoming infected and spreading the virus within prisons.
Saudi Arabia itself implemented a 21-day curfew this week, extending it to a lockdown on the entry and exit from the capital Riyadh and the two holy cities being forbidden.
There are currently no identified and confirmed cases of coronavirus infections within Yemen, but health organisations and experts have warned that the impoverished and embattled country could potentially experience an explosion of cases due to the fact that millions lack access to clean water and soap.