Truce between Yemen government, Shiite rebels postponed

SANAA, Yemen - The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen's internationally recognized government said Monday that a planned truce with the country's Shiite rebels has been postponed for 12 hours.

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The official Saudi news agency announced the postponement late Monday, saying coalition forces will halt fire at noon (0900 GMT, 4 a.m. EST) Tuesday. The ceasefire was originally scheduled to start at midnight Monday (2100 GMT, 4 p.m. EST).

The statement did not provide further details about the reason for the postponement. Rebel leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.

The warring sides had agreed to a weeklong cease-fire to coincide with peace talks in Switzerland scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Yemen's fighting pits the internationally recognized government backed by a Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition against the rebels, known as Houthis, who are allied with a former president and backed by Iran. Yemen's local al-Qaida and Islamic State affiliates have been exploiting the chaos to grab territory and exercise influence in the east and south of the country.

Previous truces and U.N.-brokered talks to end the violence have failed, as the government insisted the Houthis honour a U.N. resolution that obliges them to give up arms seized from the state and withdraw from territory they had captured over the past year, including the capital, Sanaa. The Houthis, however, have demanded negotiations over the country's political future.

According to the U.N., the war has killed at least 5,878 people so far since the fighting escalated after the Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against rebel positions in March.

Earlier in the day, ground fighting and coalition airstrikes continued across the country, killing at least 34 people, including 10 civilians, according to security and medical officials. The officials, who have remained neutral in Yemen's civil war, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Among the dead were two senior coalition officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen's southwestern Taiz province. The official Saudi and Emirati news agencies did not specify how they were killed. The two were identified as Saudi Col. Abdullah Mohammed al-Sahyan and Emirati officer Sultan Mohammed Ali al-Ketb.

The Houthis announced in a statement that the two coalition officials were killed when the rebels fired a long-range missile at a secret headquarters of the pro-government military leadership close to the strategic strait of Bab al-Mandab.


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