Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—A short-lived government-endorsed truce between Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi Movement and Sunni tribesmen appears to have collapsed as clashes were reported in Arhab, close to the capital, Sana’a, on Thursday and Friday.
Sana’a announced on Tuesday that the Houthi movement and the Sunni Hashid tribal federation had signed a ceasefire agreement following weeks of clashes in northern Yemen. The agreement saw both sides agree to vacate the area of conflict, with the army being deployed to keep the peace.
But there have since been reports that the Houthis had sought to expand their areas of influence towards the Yemeni capital, with renewed clashes also being reported.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with Al-Arhab tribal spokesman Mabkhout Al-Arshani who confirmed that his tribe is fighting the Houthis. He said: “Our tribe is unified and all of its members who belong to several parties will fight for their land and expel the Houthi invaders.”
Arshani claimed that the Houthi fighters are seeking to march on Sana’a, warning of a civil war breaking out in the country. He confirmed that while the Sunni tribes had complied with the condition of the truce, the Houthis had sought to expel the mediation committee.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a Yemeni military expert, retired Maj. Gen. Mohsen Khasrouf, said it was impossible for the Houthis to consider entering Sana’a, saying they would be met by fierce resistance from the local tribes.
Khasrouf acknowledged that the Houthi movement has the right to organize protests in Sana’a, but “trying to storm the city is not in the best interest of the movement or its allies and any such attempt will lead to a nation-wide sectarian civil war.”
Houthi spokesman Ali Al-Bakhiti denied reports that the movement was seeking to storm the city.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We defend ourselves when someone attacks us because the government is absent. Someone must fill the vacuum left by the government,” Bakhiti said, adding, “When there is a national unity government, including in Saada, we are ready to be as the rest of the political sides in Yemen.”