At least 40 people have been killed after four days of clashes in north Yemen. The fighting started when a pro-government tribe, allegedly supported by the Yemeni army, attacked a Shi’ite rebel base in the northern province of Amran. Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh however, is blaming the clashes on fanatical supporters from both sides.
This is the worst round of violence since the rebels and the government signed a ceasefire agreement in February. Both sides say they continue to support the agreement, which was intended to open up national dialogue between the country’s various political factions. More than twenty of the dead were from the Ibn Aziz tribe, while the remaining were rebel forces, known as Huthi.
Instability has racked Yemen on-and-off since 2004, when the bloody conflict first began. Huthi rebels claim the government has propelled socioeconomic and religious discrimination against them, while the government denies any such accusations. The Huthi are from the same Zaidi sect of Shi’ite Islam as the Ibn Aziz tribe.
Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam noted however, that the clashes were with the army and not with the tribal members themselves. He justified his group’s use of weapons, a violation of the truce, saying that the Huthis were “confronting heavily armed war mongerers.”
The Huthis also voiced support for Qatari help in mediating the truce with the Yemeni government. Qatar has offered to help find a solution for peace and to safeguard unity in their neighboring country.
"We would be happy to take part in finding a solution that helps the survival of the Yemen unity," said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. "We are always with the Yemenis in their problems, unless they refuse that. Until now, they have not refused."
The government in Sanaa is under heavy pressure from the Western powers to curb domestic conflict, so that it can focus on deterring resurgent Al-Qaeda forces. Yemen also faces a rising separatist movement in the south, known as the Southern movement.