Clashes continue between rival factions in Yemen's capital

Ahmed Al-Haj - Associated Press

SANAA — Violent clashes between rival factions in Yemen's rebel-held capital continued yesterday for the fourth straight day as forces loyal to a former president and Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis faced off in the streets of Sanaa, signaling disintegration in the rebel alliance at war with a Saudi-led coalition for nearly three years.

Fighting since Wednesday intensified, according to accounts of local residents who said that loud explosions were heard overnight across the city and into yesterday morning. Mediation efforts by tribal elders and officials over the past few days have come to no avail.

"It's been like a street war," they said adding that ambulances have been ferrying the wounded to hospitals. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. There has been no official word on casualties but the International Committee of the Red Cross said that dozens were killed and hundreds were wounded in the fighting.

Amid the escalating violence, ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced in a televised interview on yesterday with Yemen al-Youm that he is open to dialogue and is willing to open a "new page" to deal with the Saudi coalition after ending its blockade and ceasing fire.

The US-backed Saudi-led coalition has been fighting to defeat the Iran-backed Houthis along with Saleh's forces in Yemen since March 2015. The coalition had also imposed a blockade on the country, allowing occasional humanitarian access, with the aim of reinstating the internationally recognized government of Saleh's successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The UN urged the coalition in a statement yesterday to "fully lift" the blockade on Yemen's red sea ports saying that partial lifting only "slows the collapse toward a massive humanitarian tragedy costing millions of lives."

Saleh, who led Yemen for more than 30 years, was deposed after 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East. The country has since fell into chaos and Saleh later joined Houthis to drive Hadi out of the capital in 2014.

In his address, he also blamed them for laying siege to the homes of several officials the General People's Congress which he leads and "storming" a mosque named after him. Shortly after, broadcasting of Yemen al-Youm was stopped under unclear circumstances.

Earlier, the rebel-run Al-Masirah TV quoted a Houthi spokesman as saying that Saleh's words are "a coup against the alliance and partnership".

Seeing the strains in the rebel alliance, the Saudi-led coalition said it realizes that the General People's Congress, which Saleh heads, has been through "difficult times" and urged them "get rid of the militias affiliated with Iran," referring to Houthis in a statement carried by the Saudi news agency SPA. The coalition also stressed its confidence in GPC's partiality to serve the Yemeni people's interests.

The Arab world's poorest country suffered heavy losses due to the war which killed more than 10,000 people, displace over three million, pushed it to the brink of famine and contributed to an exacerbating cholera epidemic.

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