Here we go: Thousands flee fierce fighting in Yemen’s capital

Here we go: Thousands flee fierce fighting in Yemen’s capital

[Ed. – The Shia “Hawthis” — also spelled Houthis — are backed by Iran and considered an Iranian proxy by Saudi Arabia.  The Hawthis, or Houthis, oppose the U.S.-friendly Hadi government of Yemen, and have also operated against Saudi interests on the Saudi side of the border.]

Shiite rebels and Sunni militiamen battled in Sanaa for a second day Friday in battles that have killed at least 120 people and have shaken the Yemeni capital with thousands fleeing their homes. The violence raises fears that this chronically unstable country could be dragged into the sort of sectarian conflicts that have plagued other nations in the region. …

Just under half the population is Shiite, but they almost all belong to a unique version of Shiism — Zaydi — which is seen as very close to Sunni Islam. The two communities have long been intertwined in the political elite and military. …

In the past months, however, the Shiite rebels known as the Hawthis have become one of the country’s most powerful players. They surged from their stronghold in the north, taking a string of cities and have fought their way to the capital, Sanaa. Their critics accuse them of being allied with Shiite-led powerhouse Iran and of seeking to grab power in Yemen or carve out a Shiite enclave in the north, claims the movement denies.

Their main opponents have been Sunni Muslim hardliners — militias and army units allied with the Islah party, which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen, or tribal fighters sympathetic with the Brotherhood or al-Qaida.

The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, an ally of the United States, appears largely caught in the middle between the two forces. Meeting with foreign diplomats on Friday, Hadi described the Hawthis’ escalation in the capital as a “coup attempt aimed at toppling the state.”  [Which is exactly what it is. – Ed.]

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