Saturday, January 24, 2015

Houthi rebels in Yemen consolidate power by seizing presidential palace

Sanaa - In Yemen, Houthi rebels are reported to be in control of the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa. President Mansour Hadi is thought to be inside. Al Jazeera reports, based on witness accounts and security sources, that the seizure took place after a brief clash with the security guards at the presidential compound. Yesterday, the rebels seized a military base on a hill overlooking the palace. Yesterday as well, officials claimed that a ceasefire had been declared after a six hour fight between the Presidential Guard and the rebels.

There were troops deployed around the residence of President Hadi in Sanaa. Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf said that the Houthis have taken control of the state-run Republic of Yemen television station as well as the news agency Saba. She said: "This is a step toward a coup and it is targeting the state's legitimacy." There were two separate ceasefires agreed to, designed to facilitate ongoing negotiations today. The chief negotiator for the Houthi movement Ansarallah delivered a speech listing the Houthi grievances against the government. He claimed that president Hadi had failed to implement the terms of a peace deal with the Houthis agreed to last year in September, the Peace and National Partnership Agreement(PNPA). The Yemeni government accuses the Houthis of breaking the deal.

 Al Jazeera's producer in Sanaa, Khaled al-Hammadi said that Houthi fighters have "taken over and controlled completely the presidential palace." He claimed that the Third Brigade of the presidential guards surrendered without resisting and simply left the palace in spite of the fact that the brigade is said to have 280 Russian late-model tanks. Another report from Al Jazeera reporter Omar al Saleh said he had received reports that although Hadi was safe, his residence was surrounded by Houthi fighters.

The UN Security Council is holding consultations on the worsening situation in Yemen. Jamal Benomar, the UN special envoy to Yemen. had reported to the group on the latest situation but was now on his way back to Yemen. Most members of the Council were opposed to any military intervention in Yemen. The UK ambassador to the UN said that the meeting's goal was to release a statement expressing support for Hadi and his government and "making it clear that the international community will not tolerate the spoilers of the transitional government". Hadi was affirmed as the "legitimate authority". The statement called for implementation of the PNPA agreement, and finalizing of the constitution.

 Reporter, Hashem Ahelbarra, from Al Jazeera said it appeared that the Houthis were giving Hadi a last chance to agree to a political settlement. Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi on TV claimed that the recent two days of fighting that has been condemned by both US president Obama and the UN's Ban Ki-moon were attempts to protect a power-sharing deal, the PNPA. His speech was critical of President Hadi a staunch US ally. The accord is strongly supported by the Houthis since it grants them participation in all military and civil state bodies. He said: "We ... will not hesitate to impose any necessary measures to implement the peace and partnership agreement."

The Houthis have denied that they are attempting to topple the Yemeni government. Although there had been earlier gunfire at the house of Hadi, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti a member of the Houthi Politburo said there were no plans to target Hadi. He also claimed that Popular Committees had acted at the presidential palace to stop a local officer who was attempting to steal weapons from the compound. Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarret claimed Obama was following events in Sanaa closely. Jarret said: ""He's obviously is in touch with the folks on the ground, our embassy, he's getting regular updates from his national security team...We are in close touch with our embassy.".." President Hadi has supported US drone strikes against Al Qaeda and joint operations as well.

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