Rebel fighters from the Houthi militia blew up the residence of former president and rebel leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in the centre of the capital Sanaa on Monday, according to Houthi media outlets.
The Houthi-controlled Almasirah TV cited officials announcing that the “treason militia and its leader” has been eliminated. However, up to time of print, there has been no independent confirmation of his death. Nevertheless, pictures and videos circulating online showed Saleh’s alleged corpse, while fighters surrounding it could be heard shouting “God is great.” The authenticity of the footage has yet to be verified.
Saleh was a former ally of the Houthis but turned against the rebel group in favour of the Saudi coalition.
Sources close to Saleh’s family confirmed to AFP that he was killed in action. Reuters reported Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress, as saying he was killed by sniper bullets, citing Al-Arabiya. A social media page affiliated with the party also announced Saleh’s death, saying their “leader” was “martyred”.
Fighters belonging to Saleh have been losing ground in violent guerrilla fighting with his former allies, the Houthi movement. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday that fighting in Sanaa has been intensifying, leading to the death of at least 125 individuals, as reported by Reuters which added that Saudi warplanes struck rebels positions in Sanaa “in support of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has renounced his alliance with the Iranian-backed group.”
Beginning in March 2015, Saudi Arabia conducted airstrikes within Yemen, targetting areas controlled by the Houthis, including Sanaa, to reestablish the “legitimacy” of the government.
Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, leader of the Iran-backed rebel movement, has been been asserting that “the great Yemeni people will not give up” in the face of the “aggression”. He blames the country’s violence on Saudi Arabia, the US, and Israel. On many occasions, he accused Saudi Arabia of being “a servant of the American enemy and backing Israel”, while the kingdom, according to Al-Houthi, the real threat to the national security of the Gulf countries and the two Holy Mosques.
Since the beginning of the strikes against Houthi-held positions, thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians, leading Yemen into a humanitarian disaster exacerbated by a naval blockade and difficulties for humanitarian organisations to supply the country with food and other necessities.
Yemen relies heavily on food and fuel imports and the fuel is used to distribute food throughout the country and to keep electricity running. Water supply is also affected since the necessary installations to pump water and adequately treat it are out of order due to the fuel shortage, thus making water-borne diseases a major concern.
Last July, ICRC said that that a cholera epidemic “continues to spiral out of control” since it erupted in April, reporting that over 300,000 people are suspected to be ill.
Yemen has devolved into economic instability and political turmoil since Saleh’s forced resignation in 2012 after Yemen’s Arab Spring uprising. The political crisis resulted in the house arrest of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who at the time fled to the south and rescinded his resignation. He is currently in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.
Many countries, including Germany, the United States, and Middle Eastern nations have closed their embassies in Yemen amid security concerns. Egypt has previously said it is only contributing naval units in the conflict and denied that there are any Egyptian troops involved on the ground. The Egyptian presidency has previously noted “the participation of the required elements of the armed forces in an abroad mission to defend the Egyptian and Arab national security in the area of the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Bab El-Mandab Strait.”