Airstrikes, Fighting Halt as Yemen Truce Begins to Allow Aid

Saudi-led airstrikes and fighting largely came to a halt in Yemeni cities early Friday as a U.N.-negotiated truce began, aiming to end more than three months of violence and allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Witnesses and officials said the truce was holding in the capital, Sanaa, as well as the country's second major city, Aden, and other cities. There were reports of minor fighting in the northern part of Aden.

The pause announced Thursday by the United Nations is meant to last until the end of the holy month of Ramadan next week. The U.N. has warned that the Arab world's poorest country is "one step" from famine.

In Aden, officials said convoys of aid were lined up outside the city to be allowed in, but none had moved amid the reports of limited fighting.

More than 3,000 people have been killed since March, when the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition began airstrikes against the Houthi rebels who have seized control of the capital and other cities since September. The airstrikes continued until shortly before the truce took effect.

The coalition has also imposed a near-complete air and sea blockade in Yemen during the fighting. The rebels want the blockade lifted completely.

Houthi rebel officials said they are committed to the truce. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they waited to see whether the other side, Yemen's exiled government, will also commit.

Yemen's government had wanted the rebels to withdraw from the cities and towns they had overrun in the past months as a precondition to a truce, but it came under pressure to agree to a halt in violence immediately.

The U.N. this month declared its highest-level humanitarian emergency in Yemen on July 1. The U.N. humanitarian office says 80 percent of the population needs aid, and millions are close to famine.

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