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New hope in war that has quietly killed 6,000 in a year

SANAA, Yemen-- The Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen's Houthi rebels for more than a year said it will adhere to a cease-fire that took effect just before midnight Sunday, and the rebels also pledged to halt hostilities.

The coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that it retains the right to respond to any violations of the cease-fire, but that it intended to halt all airstrikes and hostilities in preparation for U.N.-sponsored peace talks scheduled to take place in Kuwait on April 18.

The Houthis later issued their own statement in which they promised to abide by the cease-fire while reserving the right to respond to any potential violations.

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"Now is the time to step back from the brink," U.S. special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement after the cease-fire began, according to the Reuters news agency.

"The progress made represents a real opportunity to rebuild a country that has suffered far too much violence for far too long," said Ahmed. "A positive outcome will require difficult compromises from all sides, courage and determination to reach an agreement."

There have been previous rounds of cease-fires between the warring sides. This latest attempt, announced by the U.N. envoy to Yemen last month, began at 11:59 p.m. (2059 GMT) Sunday.

Just hours before the cease-fire was to go into effect, Yemeni security officials said clashes were going on between the Shiite Houthi rebels and forces allied with the internationally recognized government that is backed by the Saudi-led coalition.

The officials said Sunday's clashes took place in several areas, including the provinces of Jawf, Sanaa, and Taiz, where the Houthis have gained ground despite Saudi-led airstrikes. The officials, who are neutral in a conflict that has split the armed forces, spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

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The Saudi-led coalition, comprised of mostly Sunni Muslim Arab countries, launched its campaign against Yemen's Houthis, who are supported by Shiite Muslim powerhouse Iran, in March 2015, several months after the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and forced the internationally-backed government into exile.

Since then, more than 6,000 people in Yemen have been killed, and Western officials have watched with consternation as local branches of al Qaedaand ISIS took advantage of the wartime chaos to bolster their presence in the country.

Sporadic cross-border shelling also has killed and wounded civilians in Saudi Arabia.

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