A nationwide ceasefire in response to the global coronavirus outbreak went into effect in Yemen today, stirring hope for an end to the five-year-old war that has pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting against Yemen's Houthi movement announced overnight it would halt military operations from today for two weeks in support of United Nations efforts to end the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.
The Houthi leadership has yet to announce whether the Iran-aligned movement, which controls the capital Sanaa and most major urban centres in Yemen, would follow suit in what would be the first major breakthrough in peace efforts since late 2018.
The coalition said its move aims to facilitate talks sponsored by UN envoy Martin Griffiths for a permanent truce, motivated in part to avoid a potential outbreak of the coronavirus, though no cases have been reported so far in Yemen.
The conflict, widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years.
Saudi Arabia last year took over most of the costly and unpopular military campaign after key coalition partner the United Arab Emirates significantly scaled down its presence.
A Houthi official said on Wednesday that the group had sent the United Nations a proposal calling for an end to the war and what it describes as a coalition blockade.
The coalition, which patrols the coast, denies imposing a blockade and says it aims to halt import of weapons.
The United Nations and Western allies have pointed to the threat of the coronavirus to push the combatants to restart talks to end the war, which has shattered Yemen's health system.
The warring parties last held political negotiations at UN-sponsored talks in Sweden in 2018.
They agreed a peace deal for the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, but this has yet to be fully implemented due to deep mistrust among all sides.