Yemen: ‘Street war’ rocks Sanaa as rebel alliance crumbles

Fresh clashes forced schools shut and shops shuttered in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Sunday, as residents warned a three-year rebel alliance was crumbling into a “street war”.

Witnesses said forces loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh had cut off a number of streets in central Sana’a and deployed heavily in anticipation of a possible attack by Al Houthi militants.

Loyalists of the former president renewed a bid to seize control of Al Jarraf district, a stronghold of the Iran-backed Al Houthis, while the rebels fortified their positions with dozens of vehicles mounted with machine guns.

Residents of various neighbourhoods said they had barricaded themselves in their homes to avoid snipers and shelling as clashes flared up around key ministries where the two sides had been working together just days before.

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The education ministry cancelled classes Sunday, normally the start of the school week, out of concern for students and teachers. Witnesses said some of the bodies from previous days’ clashes were still strewn in the capital.

Eyad Al Othmani, 33, said he had not left his house for three days because of the clashes and tensions. Mohammad Abdullah, a private sector employee, said his street had been cut off by militiamen and he was staying home to avoid checkpoints.

“Sana’a is becoming like a ghost town. There is a street war and people are holed up in their houses,” according to a local activist who works with the International Organisation for Migration in Sana’a. “If the confrontation continues, many families will be cut off” and stranded in their homes, he warned.

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Yemen’s rebel alliance controlling Sana’a has unravelled in recent days with security forces reporting some 60 combatants killed in clashes between the two sides across the capital, including at the international airport.

Saleh’s sudden move sparked warnings of retribution by Al Houthis, who accused him of staging a “coup against our alliance”.

The coalition carried out dawn air raids against Al Houthi positions in the hills south of Sana’a on Sunday.

Source Credit: Gulf News

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