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Saudi-led coalition extends Yemen ceasefire by one month

Previous unilateral truce expired on Thursday, with the international community warning of a 'catastrophe' if coronavirus spreads in war-torn country
The historical quarter of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, pictured on 21 April 2020 (AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition announced on Friday that its unilateral ceasefire in Yemen would be extended for one more month to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the war-torn country. 

A previous truce, which expired on Thursday, had been rejected by the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and vast areas of the south. 

The coalition has decided to "extend the ceasefire for a month from Thursday", its spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"The coalition reaffirms that there is still an opportunity to focus all efforts in order to reach a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire in Yemen," he added.

'The coalition reaffirms that there is still an opportunity to focus all efforts in order to reach a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire in Yemen'

- Turki al-Maliki, coalition spokesman

The United Nations has urged the Yemeni government and its Houthi enemy to cease hostilities during the pandemic, and a nationwide ceasefire is reportedly close to being agreed upon, with the country recording its first Covid-19 case on 10 April. 

UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande has warned that a coronavirus outbreak in Yemen would be “catastrophic” as the health status of at least half the population is "very degraded" and the country does not have sufficient supplies, capabilities or facilities.

March marked the fifth anniversary of the conflict, which started when Saudi Arabia and its regional allies started a bombing campaign to restore the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who had been toppled by the Houthis. 

Saudi Arabia accuses the Houthis of being an Iranian proxy, but the rebel group portrays itself as the legitimate government in Yemen. 

The violence quickly turned the already impoverished country into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations.