Iran-backed rebels in Yemen offered a temporary ceasefire on Saturday, while Saudi Arabia and its allies bombed targets in the country in retaliation for rocket and drone attacks on oil facilities in the kingdom.
The announcement by Houthi rebels came a day after they struck several plants in Saudi Arabia, including the Aramco oil depot in Jeddah, sending clouds of smoke over the city as it prepared to host a Formula 1 race. The Saudi-led coalition responded with airstrikes in Yemen.
The group’s political leader, Mahdi al-Mashat, has offered a three-day truce that will become unlimited if the Saudi-led coalition stops airstrikes and lifts restrictions on Houthi-controlled ports.
The Houthi attacks on oil plants in the world’s largest oil exporter have caused nervousness in the oil market. Saudi Arabia, which rejected US pressure to increase oil production, said it would not be held responsible for the oil shortage if the attacks continued.
Over the past year, the Houthis have stepped up their rocket and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, hitting an oil plant in the Emirate’s capital, Abu Dhabi, in January. The attacks strained relations between oil exporters and the U.S., which lifted the Hutim terrorism label after President Joe Biden took office. Both countries want to more support from the US in the face of the Houthis and the Iranian patron of the group.
Saudi Arabia and allies, including the UAE, intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis took over most of the country from an internationally recognized government. Fighting since then has led to a stalemate on most fronts and a humanitarian catastrophe in which hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have died of malnutrition and disease.
Saudi officials did not immediately comment on whether to accept Houthi’s offer.
The Gulf Co-operation Council has called on the Hutus, along with other Yemeni factions, for talks to begin later this month in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, but rebels have said they will boycott the meetings. Instead, they suggested holding talks with Saudi Arabia and other coalition members in the neutral country.
Yemeni expert Raiman Al-Hamdani said the Houthi offer could turn into a sustainable truce, “with many warnings”.
“The Houthis are becoming increasingly isolated and affected by the country’s fuel crisis and feeling pressured. Iran also wants to start selling oil again, and the Saudis really want a way out of the conflict, but they could not allow the Houthis to get away with it, especially given the recent attacks on oil production sites in the kingdom, “said Al. -Hamdani, who is a former guest associate in the European Council on Foreign Relations.