A PEACE deal between Houthi rebels and government loyalists in Yemen appears to be in jeopardy, as the Houthis have taken control of government buildings and a radio station in Sanaa – and a major army base north of the capital.
On Sunday, the rebels took over a number of government buildings in the capital including the defence ministry’s headquarters, the Central Bank, some hospitals and a state-owned radio station.
“By the end of day, we will probably see the capital Sanaa fully in the hands of the Houthis,” Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Sanaa, said.
Our correspondent said that most areas in the capital apart from the army base saw little or no fighting, which he referred to as a “capitulation of sorts”.
He added that soldiers from the army had been seen changing into civilian clothing to avoid being “arrested by the Houthis”.
Journalist Iona Craig, also in Sanaa, reported later in the day that fighting had stopped while politicians gather in the southern part of the capital.
“Some people are claiming this is a coup, and others are saying [Houthis] have legitimate demands … But they have gone further than anybody really anticipated they were going to go. They are Yemen’s strongest fighting force and they’ve beaten the army several times,” said Craig.
For now, they’ve said this afternoon that they want to try and protect government buildings within the city which to many people would seem like a coup attempt and it’s going to be interesting how it unfolds over the rest of the night.
Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa tendered his resignation in a statement in which he criticised the president’s performance in this crisis and for not participating fully in the national dialogue process.
UN special envoy Jamal Benomar, who had held talks with Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi in their home province of Saada, announced late on Saturday that an agreement had been reached to end fighting.
CURFEW IN PLACE
Yemen’s state TV headquarters in Sanaa had earlier been captured by the Shia rebels after coming under heavy shelling, while the country’s Supreme Security Commission, chaired by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ordered a curfew in four areas north and west of the capital between 9pm and 6am.
More than 100 people have died in fighting since Thursday, sparked by weeks of protests and clashes. It also prompted the suspension of international flights to Sanaa and the interruption of broadcasts by state television.
Thousands of Houthis have staged protests in Sanaa for more than a month now, besieging ministries and blocking the road to the main airport.
The Houthis are a Zaidi Shia group whose traditional power base is in the north. They are demanding a new government and also more political power for their community.
The government’s plans for a six-region federation has been rejected by the Houthis and the southern separatists.