Sana’a, Jan 20 (IANS) Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels Tuesday seized the presidential palace here a day after it signed a ceasefire deal with the Yemeni government, a government source said.
Shia Houthi gunmen entered the palace along with members of the presidential committee that monitors the ceasefire, a senior official told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity, adding that the committee members ordered the guards to hand over the compound without resistance.
“No clashes happened as the guards peacefully handed over their arms and left the palace,” he said, adding that the rebels then celebrated by firing into the air and firing bombs.
Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard across Yemen’s capital Sana’a Monday while the presidential guards and Houthi fighters clashed near the presidential palace in the southern part of the city.
The two sides reached a ceasefire deal, after clashes left nine people killed and 79 others injured, most of them civilians.
Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf said Tuesday that Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s residence was under intermittent attacks from the Houthi fighters.
“Hadi’s house is under attack by Houthi gunmen stationed on the roof of buildings in front of Hadi’s house since three hours despite ongoing negotiations with Houthi leaders,” al-Sakkaf said.
The negotiations have been focused on the terms for releasing the director of Hadi’s office, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, who was kidnapped by the Houthis earlier this week, in demand for changes in the draft constitution and expanding the national authority, she added.
Houthis, who demand more rights for the country’s Zyadi Shia Muslims, seized Sana’a in September and advanced into central and western parts of the country where Sunni Muslims predominate.
Monday’s clashes were triggered by the kidnapping of bin Mubarak by the rebels, in a wrangle over the country’s draft constitution.
According to the draft constitution, Yemen will be divided into six federal regions. However, the Houthi group demands that the country be divided into only two regions.