Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) on Monday (December 4th) announced that ex-Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, their former ally in the ongoing war, had been killed.
The news came as fighting shook Sanaa following the collapse of Saleh's alliance with the Houthis, and as members of Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) told Al-Mashareq the popular uprising against Houthis would continue.
A source told Al-Mashareq that Saleh had been killed in his hometown of Sinhan, a district in southern Sanaa.
The GPC confirmed that he has been killed.
"He was martyred in the defence of the republic," said Faiqa al-Sayyid, a leader of the GPC, blaming the Houthi militia for Saleh's killing.
Heavy clashes were reported Monday in the city between forces loyal to Saleh and the Houthis, who together seized control of Sanaa from the internationally recognised government three years ago.
Saleh's death was announced on the Houthi-controlled Al-Masirah television station. A video given to AFP by the Houthis showed what appeared to be a dead Saleh with a severe head injury, his body wrapped in a floral-print blanket.
An AFP photographer who approached Saleh's home in southern Sanaa on Monday found it in the hands of the Houthis and was prevented from entering.
The house appeared to have been damaged in fighting.
The alliance between the Houthis and Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades before resigning in 2012, unravelled over the past week, amid accusations of betrayal as the former leader reached out to the coalition.
'The uprising will continue'
Leaders of Saleh’s GPC on Monday told Al-Mashareq the popular uprising against the Houthis would continue.
GPC general committee member Adel al-Shugaa confirmed that the popular uprising would continue until Yemen is rid of Iran’s proxies, the Houthis.
"The uprising will continue, and our party leaders are urging the people to continue to revolt," al-Shugaa told Al-Mashareq.
"There will not be any truce agreements with the Houthis," he said. "The balance of power will change in favour of the GPC, which has the deterrent force and which also relies on the people’s uprising."
Saleh had on Saturday urged the people to rise up against the Houthi militia following intermittent clashes since Wednesday between GPC Guards and the Houthis, sparked when the militia stormed al-Saleh Mosque and killed three guards.
Saleh also reached out to the Arab coalition, asking it to open a "new page".
In a speech aired live on Yemen Today TV, Saleh urged "all the Yemeni people in all provinces and everywhere to rise up like one man to defend Yemen against Houthi elements who have been wreaking havoc in the country".
In response, the Houthis accused Saleh of staging a "coup" against the alliance.
Over the weekend, several anti-Houthi rallies were held in Sanaa. In the southern district of Shamila, protesters staged a rally calling for "No Houthi after Today". Similar rallies were organised in Ibb, Mahwit and Dhamar provinces.
"Demonstrators at Shamila Market, mostly workers, took to the streets spontaneously after they heard Saleh’s call," said Jabir Mossad, who took part in the demonstrations.
"People’s sufferings have doubled because of the stoppage of work and suspension of salaries for about a year, and that was why people just joined the rally," he told Al-Mashareq.
Heavy fighting in Sanaa
As witnesses reported continued heavy fighting on Monday, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered his forces to advance on the city.
"The president has ordered Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who is in Marib, to activate military units and advance towards the capital," a presidency official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government also reached out to Saleh's supporters with an offer of amnesty.
"The president will soon announce a general amnesty for all those who collaborated with the Houthis in recent months and who have retracted that allegiance," said Prime Minister Ahmad Obaid bin Daghr.
The Saleh-Houthi alliance had been fraught since its inception in 2014, when the two ended decades of enmity and joined ranks to capture Sanaa from Hadi's government.
On Monday, a fresh wave of coalition airstrikes targeted areas near Sanaa International Airport and the interior ministry, both under Houthi control, residents and an airport source said.
The coalition on Monday warned Yemeni civilians to evacuate or avoid areas held by the Houthis, and to keep their distance from Houthi gatherings and vehicles.
An airport source said Houthi bases near the location appeared to have been targeted, but the airport itself had not been bombed.
Residents reported that the fighting had spread outside Sanaa.
Tribal sources in Saleh's hometown Sinhan on Monday reported intense overnight fighting between the Houthis and Saleh loyalists.
Witnesses said clashes had erupted around the residence of Tarek Saleh, a nephew of the former president and a leader with his forces.
Aid groups issue a warning
Some Sanaa districts witnessed armed clashes and street fighting over the weekend, especially in areas near Saleh’s home and the residences of his family members in the political district and in al-Jazaer and al-Zubairi streets.
Traffic came to a complete standstill in those areas and a curfew and street closures were imposed.
Hizam Saleh told Al-Mashareq families had been trapped inside their homes since Friday, and only managed to leave their homes on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urged all parties in Sanaa to give unfettered access to humanitarian aid teams so the wounded can be evacuated and care can be provided.
"The parties to the conflict have a legal, moral and religious responsibility to give access to medical teams into the areas of clashes to rescue the wounded and transfer the bodies of those killed," ICRC Sanaa spokesman Adnan Hizam told Al-Mashareq.
"The ICRC has contacted the parties to the conflict to remind them of the need to spare civilians, and to allow the medical teams to perform their mission and to ensure their safety," he added.
ICRC medical teams will rescue the wounded and remove the bodies of those killed if the parties to the conflict so ask them, he said, and if sufficient guarantees are given for the safety of medical teams.