Street fighting between pro-government forces and opposition tribesmen raged in and around the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, for a fourth straight day Thursday, threatening to push the impoverished Gulf nation into all-out civil war.
Western news reports quote government sources and witnesses as saying at least two dozen people have been killed in fighting late Wednesday and early Thursday. The toll is in addition to at least 69 deaths that have occurred since Monday. Witnesses say the victims include soldiers, tribesmen and civilians.
Witnesses reported heavy shelling and loud explosions in the capital as battles continued between pro-government forces and the Hashid clan and its supporters. The Hashid clan is the country’s most powerful tribal confederation.
Electricity is intermittent and the Sana’a airport is closed. Officials say flights are being diverted to the city of Aden. Opposition fighters have taken control of several government buildings, including the offices of the state news agency, Saba, and the trade and tourism ministries.
Many residents fled the fighting by car on Wednesday. Others who attempted to enter the city were stopped by elite, pro-government Republican Guard troops who manned checkpoints blocking all roads leading into Sana’a.
The U.S. State Department has ordered non-essential diplomats and embassy family members to leave Yemen. The State Department said Wednesday that Yemen’s security threat level is “extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.”
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has again ruled out a voluntary exit. On Wednesday, he condemned U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate his departure after nearly 33 years of authoritarian rule. He told the Reuters news agency that he “does not take foreign orders.”
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters again marched through the capital, not far from the clashes, calling on Mr. Saleh to step down.