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Yemen: Tensions between rebels escalate into clashes in the capital

Ⓒ AFP – STRINGER – | Houthis Shiite fighters in Sanaa, August 24, 2017

An official close to former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh and two Houthis rebels have been killed in unprecedented internal clashes that risk transforming the capital Sanaa into a battlefield between allied factions.

Colonel Khaled al-Ridha was Deputy Chief of External Relations of the General People’s Congress (GPC), Mr. Saleh’s party, and was killed on Saturday night.

Without naming the Houthis directly, the CPG accused a “morally unethical group” of being responsible for the officer’s death, a barely veiled reference to these pro-Iranian insurgents.

Ⓒ AFP – Mohammed HUWAIS – | Forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah, 24 August 2017

The confidence that allowed Saleh to forge an alliance three years ago with the Houthis is eroding day by day. Both sides were able to maintain control of Sana’a and prevent pro-government forces from advancing to northern Yemen.

The Saba press agency, headed by the Houthis, has reported the deaths of two members of the popular committees, dominated by the Houthis, in clashes Saturday night in Sana’a.

– Live voltage –

According to GPC sources, violence erupted after an altercation between men of both camps at a checkpoint near the offices of the Presidency, where Saleh is sitting, in the Hadda area, south of Sana’a.

Ⓒ AFP – MOHAMMED HUWAIS – | A Yemenite on the rubble of a house destroyed by air strikes on August 26, 2017, in a residential area of ​​Sana’a

Tension was high on Sunday in the capital, which is usually calm despite aerial raids by Saudi Arabia’s pro-government Arab coalition, the last of which killed 14 civilians on Friday before the dawn. Five children of the same family.

According to residents, forces loyal to Saleh have massively deployed at the site of the clash which cost the life of Colonel Ridha, around the residence of Saleh and the place Sabyine, traditional place of political rallies .

It was on this place that a massive demonstration of Mr. Saleh’s supporters took place on Thursday on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the GIC. Wanted as a demonstration of strength of this political formation, the demonstration gathered hundreds of thousands of people and took place without any major incident.

Ⓒ AFP – MOHAMMED HUWAIS – | Former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh (center, arm raised), August 24, 2017 in Sana’a

As he spoke, Saleh refrained from directly attacking the Houthis.

Officially, the alliance with them had materialized in September 2014 and the capture of the capital by the rebels.

– ‘Trahison’ –

An alliance unnatural since Saleh fought them during his three decades of presidency, before being forced to cede power under the pressure of the street in 2012.

The Houthis, originating from the large Zaidite minority (branch of Shiism) well established in northern Yemen, and the pro-Saleh have faced since 2015 a intervention of a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia which supports the forces Progovernmental groupings in the south.

But there have recently been fissures between Chief Houthi Abdel Malek al-Houthi (38) and Saleh (75), who have exchanged accusations of “treason” in televised speeches.

Saleh had suggested that his allies were a “militia” and the rebels had warned him that he would “assume the consequences” of his remarks.

Ⓒ AFP – STRINGER – | Houthis Shiite fighters in Sanaa, August 24, 2017

The Houthis suspect Saleh of negotiating, behind their backs, with the Arab coalition. The latter, supported by Saudi Arabia as president, accuses the Houthis of wanting to concentrate power in their hands.

Since March 2015, the Yemeni conflict has left 8,400 dead and 48,000 injured, including many civilians, and caused a serious humanitarian crisis. A cholera epidemic has killed some 2,000 people and several parts of the poor country are on the verge of starvation.

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