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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Houthis call for state of emergency in Sanaa to 'face the enemy'

A senior Houthi rebel official said the rebels needed to conduct an investigation into what almost caused a rift between the two main power brokers in the rebel-controlled areas

A follower of the Shiite Houthi movement performs the traditional Baraa dance during a ceremony marking Sanaa, where the Houthis are calling for an emergency state. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
A follower of the Shiite Houthi movement performs the traditional Baraa dance during a ceremony marking Sanaa, where the Houthis are calling for an emergency state. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

The Houthi rebels have called for Sanaa and the surrounding areas to be placed under a state of emergency arguing it is a necessary measure for them to 'face the enemy”.

Abdul Hakim Al Khaiwani, deputy interior minister of Houthi-governed Sanaa, called for the action after his militias clashed with forces belonging to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, local media said.

The two groups entered a marriage of convenience when the Houthis seized Sanaa and attempted to drive the internationally recognised government from power in 2014.

Mr Saleh was forced to stand down after Arab Spring protests in 2011 but kept control of sections of the military. He has fought alongside the Houthis against Yemeni government forces and the Saudi coalition backing his successor President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

However, relations between the two parties deteriorated last month over statements accusing each other of conspiring with “the enemy” and settling for a peace that would entail surrender.

The state of emergency was called for by the deputy interior minister on Thursday and was being considered by the judiciary committee on Sunday. It comes as the Houthis and Saleh have de-escalated tensions that almost erupted into clashes last week. Just days after Mr Saleh celebrated his political parties' 35-year anniversary, Houthi militants manniung a check point killed one of his top military commanders, Colonel Khaled Al Radhi, and reportedly injured Ahmed Ali, Mr Saleh’s son, and supposed heir.

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The Houthis said the state of emergency was necessary to allow them to conduct a proper investigation of what happened at the check point day, calling the perpetrators “armed bandits” looking to destabilise Sanaa.

“This is needed so that the authorities can conduct its duties on the streets to ensure the peoples’ rights and to defend itself from the enemies,” he said.

The UAE joined the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in the war in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis had swept across the country. The coalition and Yemeni forces drove the Iran-backed rebels from much of southern Yemen but the fighting became bogged down in Taez province and along the Red Sea coast.

The UN said that more than 8,400 people have been killed and more than 3 million have been displaced in Yemen's civil war, pushing the country to the brink of famine and sparking a widespread cholera epidemic

The World Health Organisation and Yemen's health ministry said the cholera outbreak in the country has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April. Some districts are still reporting rises in new cases.

However, the overall spread of the epidemic has slowed in the past couple of months, with the daily number of new suspected cases cut to around 3,000 in recent days.