Houthi rebels take near-total control of Sanaa

Houthi rebels have taken control of large areas in northern Yemen and are advancing on the capital Sanaa. (File Photo: Reuters)

Heavily-armed Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels took almost total control of the capital Sanaa on Monday, seizing government offices and blocking main streets a day after a power-sharing deal was signed with the president, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Agence France-Presse also reported that the Houthis have erected checkpoints on the capital’s main roads and were conducting patrols.

Infographic: Houthi rebels in near-total control of Yemen capital

Infographic: Houthi rebels in near-total control of Yemen capital

Infographic: Houthi rebels in near-total control of Yemen capital

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in a speech at the presidential palace, said: "Sanaa is facing a conspiracy that will lead towards civil war."
 

Read also: Yemen’s crisis and the battle for Sanaa

Observers say the Houthis' battlefield success reflects a major change in Yemen's political landscape, with traditional sources of power - Sunni Islamists, allied army generals and tribal chiefs - losing their grip as the central government gave in to the Shiite rebels to avert a full-blown civil war, according to Associated Press.

Mansour Hayel, a Yemeni political analyst, compared the Houthi sweep to the rampage in Iraq and Syria by Sunni militants from the Islamic State group.

“The situation is very disturbing,” Hayel said, according to AP. “The state withdrew its control over institutions and the Houthis and their affiliates replaced it. They are all over the city.”

The Houthis signed the U.N.-brokered deal on Sunday, an agreement that gave them unprecedented influence in the presidency and over the Cabinet. It calls for an immediate cease-fire and the formation of a technocratic government within a month after consultations with all political parties.

According to the deal, President Hadi is to appoint key advisers - from both the ranks of the Houthis and the pro-separatist factions in the south.

However, the Houthis abstained from signing an appendix to the deal that stipulates that they abide by the cease-fire, withdraw from Sanaa and other northern cities, and surrender their weapons to the government.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest nations, is facing multiple challenges. An al-Qaeda branch in the south poses a constant threat as it tries to impose control over cities and towns. Washington considers the Yemeni branch to be the world's most dangerous arm of al-Qaida and has helped support Yemeni government offensives against it with drone strikes.

The Houthis waged a six-year insurgency that officially ended in 2010. The following year, an Arab Spring-inspired uprising forced then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012 as part of a U.S.-backed deal giving him immunity from prosecution.

After Saleh's ouster, a power-sharing deal brokered by Yemen's neighboring Gulf Arab states and Western allies gave the Islah party along with the rest of the opposition half of the Cabinet and parliament seats. The other half went to Saleh's party.

[With Associated Press]

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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