THE LEVANT – At least 50 people were killed in clashes between Yemeni soldiers affiliated to Al Islah – Yemen’ Sunni radical faction – and Houthi militants in the northern province of Al Jawf, after Houthi positions were challenged in the area.
While the Houthis have worked to cut off the Yemeni capital, Sana’a and impose a dual siege on the capital – popular and political – thousands of protesters came to denounce the coalition government, calling for a change of leadership and the implementation of all NDC resolutions – National Dialogue Conference.
In Al Jawf hundreds came too to demonstrate their support of the Houthis, prompting the ire of military officers.
“As many as 30 Houthi militants were killed in fierce clashes with army troops backed by armed tribesmen in Al-Gheil directorate since Friday night,” a local government official told reporters. Twenty people from the army and the pro-government groups were also reportedly killed in the ensuing clashes.
It is important to note that all soldiers stand under the command of an Islahi officer.
Ever since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation back in 2012, Yemen military has not known cohesion and unity, rather the loyalty of its troops has been defined by political and tribal affiliations, turning the armed forces into militia-like units.
Al Jawf province is strategically important as it is located near Marib province, which is the center of the country’s oil production.
The capital city of Sana’a also witnessed large-scale protests on Friday and Saturday when hundreds of thousands rallied in support and against President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.
The Houthis, who maintain a stronghold in the northern province of Sa’ada, rejected overtures from Hadi earlier this week and have called for the dissolution of the government, which they accuse of widespread corruption, in favour of a more representative one.
Houthi leaders also called for an escalation of protests in and around Sanaa and urged their supporters to start a civil disobedience movement by joining in new protests on Sunday and Monday to build pressure on the government.
Yemen has been in the grips of an internal conflict for more than three years. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled for over two decades, was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly uprising in which the Houthis played a crucial role.