UN announces humanitarian truce in Yemen as of Friday

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - A humanitarian truce will go into force in Yemen on Friday to allow urgently needed aid to reach civilians in the war-torn country facing the threat of famine, the United Nations said.

The pause in fighting will go into effect at 23.59 local time on Friday (4am on Saturday, Singapore time) until the end of Ramadan on July 17.

The announcement came eight days after the United Nations declared Yemen a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, with nearly half of the country's regions facing a food crisis.

"It is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded and through an unconditional humanitarian pause," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has received assurances from the Shi'ite Huthi rebels and other parties that "the pause will be fully respected and that there will be no violations from any combatants under their control," he added.

More than 21.1 million people - over 80 per cent of Yemen's population - are in need of aid, with 13 million facing food shortages.

Access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people, according to the UN.

Ban had repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire to allow badly needed aid to be delivered to civilians suffering from the air war and the rebel offensives.

Yemen slid deeper into turmoil when a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in late March to stop an advance by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who drove the president into exile.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are demanding that the Huthis pull back from territory seized in their offensive and that President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi be restored to power.