Houthi rebels escalate attacks on Yemen’s state institutions

Houthi movement fighters on Thursday escalated attacks on Yemen’s state institutions and officials, including taking control of the headquarters of the civil aviation authority, in actions that one government official said threatened to void the UN-sponsored peace deal with President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a senior Yemen government official said: “The Peace and Partnership agreement has practically been annulled due to the practices of the Houthis who are seeking to take complete control of the Yemeni state.”

The UN sponsored an agreement in Yemen to end hostilities between the Houthi movement and the government in September. Under the agreement, dubbed the Peace and Partnership Agreement, the Shi’ite group pledged to withdraw its forces from the capital Sana’a in exchange for wider government representation.

The senior Yemeni official’s comments came on the back of a series of violations committed by Houthi militants on Thursday, including the takeover of the headquarters of the aviation authority and the kidnapping of undersecretary of Yemen’s central security agency Maj. Gen. Yehia Al-Marani.

Since its successful takeover of the capital Sana’a on September 21, the Houthi movement has set to expand its military presence in central and western Yemen, capturing civilian and military state infrastructure in a number of regions. Most recently, Houthis took control of the headquarters of Yemen’s Central Bank in Sana’a and SAFER, the country’s largest state-run oil and gas company.

The Houthis latest violations of the UN-brokered agreement represent a “coup against the legitimate authority of President Hadi,” the Yemeni official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He also warned of a potential public response against the Houthis if they continued to seize state institutions.

The Shi’ite group’s advance has drawn resentment from Yemen’s Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah Party and even more radical groups, such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia group.

Talks between the Houthis and the Islah party have stalled due to the Shi’ite group’s “refusal to pacify the situation,” a Yemeni political source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Houthis are trying to drag the Islah party into an armed confrontation as is the case with Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Al-Sharia group who are involved in fierce clashes with the [Shi’ite] group in Rada’a in Baydah governorate and Arhab north of Sana’a,” the source added.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed governors of Aden, Hydaydah and Hadramout took the oath of office before President Hadi on Thursday, Yemen’s state-owned SABA news agency reported.

In a speech after the ceremony Hadi highlighted the political, economic and security challenges facing the country, emphasizing that his administration has been “working with all good people in the country to overcome these obstacles.”

He said: “The last few years were full of various challenges, however, we doubled our efforts—with the support of all brothers and friends along with the international community—to implement the GCC-brokered deal, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and the Peace and National Partnership Agreement.”

Hadi also announced that the Constitution Drafting Committee is preparing to complete the new constitution based on the principles of justice, equality and power and wealth sharing.

He also discussed the country’s federal system which he said does not mean dividing the country but will “give full powers to the regions away from excessive centralization which was one of the main obstacles to development.”

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