Sana’a – Violent clashes between rival factions in Yemen’s rebel-held capital continued on Saturday for the fourth straight day as forces loyal to a former president and Iran-backed Shi’ite rebels known as Houthis faced off in the streets of Sana’a, signaling disintegration in the rebel alliance at war with a Saudi-led coalition for nearly three years.
Fighting intensified since Wednesday, according to accounts of local residents who said that loud explosions were heard overnight across the city and on Saturday 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. There has been no official word on casualties but the International Committee of the Red Cross said that dozens were killed and hundreds were injured in the fighting.
Amid the escalating violence, ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced in a televised interview on Saturday 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 on Saturday urged the coalition 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.