Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least thirteen Yemenis were killed in clashes between the Yemeni army and Shi’iite Houthi fighters in northern Yemen on Friday.
Government sources confirmed that 13 people had been killed in the clashes, but tribal sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the total death toll stood at 24, with deaths on both sides.
The Al-Jawf provincial council issued a statement on Saturday confirming that Houthi gunmen had attacked a government compound early Friday morning, opening fire at a security checkpoint and killing two soldiers and injuring four others. The statement added that Yemeni security forces confronted the Houthi attackers, resulting in the death of three Houthi fighters and the arrests of several others.
Local reports say that violence occurred after Houthi protesters staged a demonstration in Al-Jawf province capital Al-Hazm against what they view as government failures to strengthen the economy and end the state of unrest across the country.
According to government reports, violence erupted after the protest, which included armed Houthi fighters, attempted to approach a government compound with the Yemeni military—augmented by fighters affiliated to the Sunni-majority Islah Party—repelled them. But tribal sources claimed that clashes broke out after fighters affiliated to the Islah movement attacked the demonstration.
The unrest in Al-Jawf is the latest round of violence in Yemen between the Zaydi Shi’ite Houthi Movement and other sectors of society. A short-lived government-endorsed truce between the Houthi Movement and the Sunni Hashid tribal federation collapsed last month, with the Shi’ite movement later reportedly seeking to expand its areas of influence towards the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.
In previous comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Houthi spokesman Ali Al-Bakhiti stressed that any violence engaged in by the Shi’ite movement was for self-defense.
He said: “We defend ourselves when someone attacks us, because the government is absent. Someone must fill the vacuum left by the government,” adding that “when there is a national unity government, including in Saada, we are ready to be like the rest of the political sides in Yemen.”