After floating the possibility of a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen yesterday, today Saudi Arabia gave that ceasefire a firm start time: 11 PM local time next Tuesday, May 12. This is good news, tentatively, though it should probably be taken with a grain of salt seeing as how the last Saudi ceasefire didn’t even slow their air campaign against the Houthi-Saleh rebels (and any civilians who happen to be in the way) down a little. Also weighing on the announcement was the vaguest of vague condition placed upon it by both Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State John Kerry at their joint news conference in Paris today:
Kerry said the terms of the cease-fire are very straightforward.
“Don’t shoot. Don’t move around and start to reposition and take advantage of this,” said Kerry. “This is a humanitarian pause and they should treat it accordingly,” he added.
He also indicated that the Saudi-led coalition would make allowances for minor offenses during the pause
“They are not going to break this up over some mistake or some minor thing,” said Kerry.
However, he added, that “bold, significant, clear” efforts to attack people would not be tolerated.
“Don’t move around unless it’s a mistake or some minor thing but we’ll let the Saudis be the judge of that” seems more like the recipe for a five-minute ceasefire than a five-day one. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as “straightforward.” But still, it’s better than nothing, in theory, and Jubeir did say that the ceasefire could be extended if it goes well. Given that the Houthis have said they’re open to negotiations if the bombing campaign stops, this could be the first step toward beginning peace talks. On the other hand, the efficacy of the humanitarian component of this humanitarian ceasefire may be compromised by a Saudi insistence that they, not the UN or any relief agencies, be in charge of coordinating the relief.
In Yemen itself, meanwhile, the Saudis warned anyone living in the country’s northern Saʿda Province to get the hell out by sundown today if they don’t want to be dodging ordinance. This comes after Houthi bombardments of the southern Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan earlier this week reportedly killed 10 people. For civilians in both countries, Tuesday can’t come soon enough.