Sporadic clashes between Yemeni government forces and the Zaidi Shi'ite Houthi rebels besieging the capital Sana'a have residents on edge. Rebel advances in several places prompted the closure of the capital's main airport, and most phone and Internet service has been cut.
Houthi rebels attacked Yemeni government forces in parts of the capital, Sana'a Friday, paralyzing traffic and forcing residents to remain indoors for hours. The rebels fired mortar rounds at the government TV station, disrupting its broadcasts.
Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post newspaper, says the situation is tense and that all aspects of life are now being disrupted:
"Sana'a's international airport has been closed down for the last 24 hours. Phone lines have been closed down. Internet service has been closed down. Clashes are in most areas around Sana'a," he said. "The northern part of Sana'a is controlled by the Houthis right now and there is no sign of any agreements being reached soon."
International airlines have suspended flights to Sana'a because of the violence.
The heaviest clashes were reported in the northern district of Shamlan, near the Iman University of Islamist cleric Abdul Majid al-Zindani. Witnesses say that residents have been fleeing Shamlan.
One man in Shamlan indicated that it was becoming difficult to cope with the daily chores of life.
He said that a humanitarian truce is necessary because the fighting in the area of the Iman University has forced the closure of fruit and vegetable markets.
Arabiya TV reported that President Abdrabbou Mansour Hadi met with his top military commanders to discuss the situation. The report said that Yemeni security forces had pushed the rebels back in northern and western parts of the capital.
United Nations special envoy Jamal Benomar said he is continuing his mediation effort with the rebels and that he is hopeful for an eventual agreement:
He said that he's discussed the possible solutions that might be acceptable with all the parties and that are based on proposals of the national dialogue meeting. He notes that consultations are continuing and that he hopes they will have positive results.
The Houthis have been holding protests outside government buildings and on the outskirts of the capital for nearly a month. They are demanding the appointment of a new government and territorial concessions for their northern enclave, including a possible port on the Red Sea.
The Houthi rebels waged a six-year armed rebellion against the government of former President Ali Abdallah Saleh from 2004 to 2010.