News / Middle East

Yemen Clashes Intensify as Political Mediation Teeters

An anti-government protester holds out his blood-stained hands after clashes with security forces, in Sanaa, Yemen, September 18, 2011.
An anti-government protester holds out his blood-stained hands after clashes with security forces, in Sanaa, Yemen, September 18, 2011.

Fighting engulfed parts of Yemen's capital Sana'a Monday as forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdallah Saleh clashed with military units who have joined the opposition.  Mediation efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations appear to be meeting resistance.

Mortar rounds and automatic rifle fire erupted throughout the day Monday in parts of Sana'a, as fighting pinned many residents at home.

Medical officials in Yemen report more than 40 dead and hundreds wounded from two days of violence in the capital.

Stephen Steinbeiser of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies describes the clashes from Sana'a.

“The fighting started last night very, very close to our institute and it's intensifying and we're behind a public hospital in the capital and now the Ahmed Ali folks, loyal to the president have taken up position there,” said Steinbeiser.  

He says there are snipers on the main street.

"We're kind of in an alleyway - and on the main street in front of that there are snipers that are basically shooting at anything that moves.

".... and now we've been hearing shots and explosions in other parts of the city,” said Steinbeiser.  

Arab satellite channels report that envoys from the Gulf Cooperation Council and U.N. are trying to mediate a truce between forces loyal to President Saleh and rival military units loyal to General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, who sided with opposition protesters earlier this year.

Steinbeiser believes that events are reaching a critical stage.

“There's going to come a point where it's going to be too far and people are not going to be able to pull back,” said Steinbeiser.  "But, I don't think that the president is going to give up easily. I just don't think that this stalemate is going to be resolved peacefully, and certainly not soon.”

Mr. Saleh continues to insist that he is willing to hand over power, but only after a fresh presidential election is called.

Stephen Steinbeiser says most observers in Yemen concur that Mr. Saleh is “not going to go quietly.”    

“It occurred to me that this is probably just going to be a street to street thing until someone ends up with most of the city, because Sana'a is really the last part of Yemen to hold out for the president,” said Steinbeiser.   

President Saleh remains in neighboring Saudi Arabia, recovering from injuries sustained in a June attack on his presidential compound.

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