Sanaa: The United Nations is hoping a 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen due to start on Wednesday will allow vital aid to reach parts of the country that have been cut off by months of fighting and are in dire humanitarian need.
A ceasefire between warring factions in Yemen will begin at 2359 local time (2059 GMT) on Wednesday, the UN said on Monday, raising hopes of an end to a war in the country that has killed thousands of civilians and left people starving.
Aid agencies may try during the ceasefire to reach families trapped in towns and villages where fighting - and a sea, air and land blockade imposed by a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen - has left people short of food and in need of vital medical supplies.
"Hopefully this nationwide cessation will provide humanitarian agencies and organizations the opportunity to respond in areas that have been cut off or are hard to reach in all of Yemen," Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator, told Reuters.
McGoldrick said he hoped the cessation of hostilities would be extended and would herald a resumption of peace talks that collapsed in August.
Saudi Arabia and several allies have carried out air strikes and deployed troops in Yemen in support of the exiled Yemeni government which was toppled by the Houthis in 2015.
The Houthis and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, hold most of Yemen's northern half, while forces loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni government share control of the rest of the country with local tribes.
The 19-month conflict has excaberated Yemen's already urgent humanitarian needs by increasing levels of malnutrition and recruitment of child soldiers and damaging schools and infrastructure.
On Monday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the cessation of hostilities could be renewed after the initial three-day period, the United Nations said in statement.
"The Special Envoy welcomes the restoration of the Cessation of Hostilities, which will spare the Yemeni people further bloodshed and will allow for the expanded delivery of humanitarian assistance," the statement said.
Earlier on Monday, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel Malek Al Mekhlafi said on his official Twitter feed that President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire with the possibility of it being extended.
"The President agreed to a 72 hrs ceasefire to be extended if the other party adheres to it, activates the DCC (De-escalation and Coordination Committee) and lifts the siege of Taiz," he said.
The DCC is the United Nations-backed military commission responsible for overseeing ceasefires in Yemen.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said on Monday that Saudi Arabia was prepared to accept a ceasefire if the Houthis agreed to one, but that he was sceptical about peace efforts after previous ceasefire attempts failed.