May 13, 2015 / 9:44 AM / 2 years ago

Yemen truce broadly holds, but reports of violations

CAIRO (Reuters) - A five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen appeared to be broadly holding on Wednesday, despite reports of some air strikes overnight by Saudi-led forces and continued actions by the country’s dominant Houthi group in the east.

An Arab alliance headed by the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia has been bombing Iran-allied Houthi fighters who control much of its impoverished neighbor since March 26. A ceasefire is meant to allow in aid and medicine.

Eyewitnesses in the south-western city of Abyan said air strikes hit Houthi positions there after they seized the area for hours after the pause began at 11 p.m. (2000 GMT).

Residents of the southern provinces of Shabwa and Lahj, which have also witnessed heavy ground clashes between local militiamen and the Houthis, also reported air strikes overnight.

Residents said that at least 35 civilians were killed by Saudi-led air strikes on cities of Abs and Zabeed in western Yemen on Tuesday, before the ceasefire went into effect.

The reports, even if fully accurate, would suggest violence at a far lower level than before the truce formally began.

The Houthi TV channel al-Masira said Saudi ground forces shelled their northern stronghold of province of Saada and called the bombings a “violation” of the ceasefire.

There was no immediate confirmation of the accusations by Saudi media, who in the hours after the ceasefire began reported “violations” of the ceasefire by Houthi forces shelling armed opponents in Yemen’s south.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Muslim allies believe the Houthis are a proxy for the influence of their arch-rival, Shi‘ite Iran, in a regional power struggle that has helped exacerbate sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning, editing by Sami Aboudi and Ralph Boulton

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