Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Houthi forces are advancing in Yemen’s western Al-Hudaydah province, seeking to take control of a number of strategic areas including the port of Midi, close to the Yemeni–Saudi border, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Local people are set to begin demonstrations and protests against the Houthi advance into the area, the local source said, warning against the advance of Shi’ite militiamen into western Yemen.
“This represents a grave threat to social peace [in the region]. Particularly given the presence of one of the country’s most important ports and economic zones,” he said.
Analysts warn the Houthis could be seeking to gain control to a Red Sea port to use as leverage at a time when the Shi’ite movement is in the midst of a large-scale political confrontation with the central government, after Sana’a cut fuel subsidies in July as part of an economic reform package seeking to address the country’s crippling financial problems.
Houthis have been protesting in the capital for weeks, disrupting main routes and bringing traffic to a standstill, while President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s administration has so far been unable to come to an agreement with the Houthis to end the protests.
Houthi rebels clashed with Yemeni military forces northeast of Sana’a on Monday, with local and international sources reporting dozens killed on both sides. At least 22 people were killed over Monday and Tuesday in fighting in the Al-Jawf province, northeast of Sana’a, tribal and local sources told Reuters.
The latest incidents between the central government and Houthi rebels have taken place outside of Sana’a and represent an escalation in the conflict as rival forces seek to secure their control over different parts of the country.
Talks between Yemen’s Houthis and Sana’a broke down on Monday after the Houthis walked out over alleged “foreign intervention,” in reference to a G10 statement warning that the Shi’ite movement is responsible for the deteriorating security situation in the country.
UN Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar is continuing consultations with the government and Houthis in order to reach a peaceful solution to the current crisis, his office said in a statement on Monday.
Benomar held separate meetings with senior government officials and Houthi representatives on Monday. “Discussions focused on ways to address the crisis, and the need to achieve consensus over timely solutions based on the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference,” he said.