Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Islamist Al-Islah party and the Shi’ite Houthi movement reached an unprecedented deal on Friday to end hostilities, a political source told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Al-Islah party have been among the Shi’ite movement’s biggest political rivals over the past few years. The two sides have also been locked in an armed struggle for months in Yemen’s central Amran governorate, although their sectarian feud dates back to the early 2000s.
Under the deal, both sides have agreed to stop fighting, coordinate efforts to settle disputes and release prisoners, a political source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi hosted a meeting with senior Al-Islah party officials at his base in northern Saada governorate late on Friday. He also promised to return property his group had captured from the Al-Islah party.
The two sides also agreed to maintain communication, build confidence, achieve cooperation and coexistence and implement the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and the terms of the Peace and Partnership agreement.
According to the source, the deal was brokered by UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) representatives.
Elsewhere, reports have emerged of Houthi fighters advancing on the city of Taiz in western Yemen, the provincial capital of Taiz governorate, with some media outlets reporting that the Shi’ite militia have already captured the city’s main airport. Yemeni armed forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Saeed Al-Faqih dismissed the claims as “completely unfounded.”
Around sixteen vehicles carrying 200 Houthi militants have been deployed to the outskirts of the city, not far away from the airport and radio building, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Houthi fighters, who are in control of the capital and large areas of western and central Yemen, had until recently by-passed Taiz following a deal with local authorities to arrest extremists in the city.
“The deal no longer exists as the local authorities have not fulfilled their commitments to arrest 14 [extremists] in Taiz,” a Houthi official speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said.
Houthi gunmen also advanced into the central governorate of Ibb, which borders Taiz, on Thursday, meeting little to no resistance.
“Supporters of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have helped the Houthis to reach the suburbs of Taiz, which is home to a republican guards barracks, where a large number of officers support [Saleh’s] eldest son who used to be the commander of the elite force,” the source added.