Yemen’s Houthi rebels have announced a halt on strikes against Saudi Arabia, adding that they expect reciprocal steps from Riyadh. The ceasefire offer comes days after a major attack on Saudi oil refineries claimed by the Houthis.
The televised announcement was made on Friday by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi political council in Sana’a. It comes as the Saudi-led coalition launched a massive operation against “legitimate military targets” north of the port of Hodeidah, in southwestern Yemen.
“I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone,” said Mashat. If the Saudis ignore the ceasefire offer and continue bombing, the group reserves its “right to respond,” he warned.
This is not the first instance of Houthis making a ceasefire gesture to try and stop the Saudi bombing campaign – but this time they appear to have some added leverage. The offer comes just a week after a strike on oil processing facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais halved Saudi Arabian production and spiked global oil prices by nearly 20 percent.
The Houthis claimed responsibility for the strike, which demonstrated failure of Saudi Arabia’s US-made air defenses, but Riyadh and Washington chose to blame Iran for the attack instead.
No proof of Tehran’s involvement in the launch of drones and missiles has so far been provided, with Saudi Arabia only identifying the source of the attack as somewhere in the “north.” Iran has denied any involvement in the attack.
Meanwhile, the Houthis also capitalized on the attack’s outcome by promptly threatening another member of the Saud-led coalition, the UAE. Earlier this week, the rebels claimed that they’ve picked dozens of Emirati targets that would be attacked by drones unless Abu Dhabi ceases its participation in the Yemen war.
Conflict has ravaged the Arabian peninsula country since 2015, when a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE invaded Yemen trying to reinstall the ousted pro-Saudi President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. While they have been unable to defeat the Houthis despite their overwhelming advantage in numbers and weaponry, the war has taken a heavy toll on the people of Yemen. Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict, while millions have been deprived of the very basic healthcare, food and clean water, with starvation and disease rampant.
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