SANA’A – Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh called on Saturday on the Saudi Arabia-led coalition to end its hostilities in the country and help end the conflict.
In a televised speech hours after forces loyal to him clashed with Houthi rebels, Saleh asked neighboring countries and their allies to end their aggressive actions, lift the blockade, open airports and allow food aid to enter Yemen.
“I call on the Yemeni people to defend their homeland against the attacks of the Houthi rebels,” Saleh said, while also adding that it was time to turn the page and start a positive dialogue.
He also urged the Yemeni army and security forces not to follow any orders from the Houthi militias.
Saleh had formed a tactical alliance with the Houthis in 2014 to undermine the rule of Saudi-backed President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, but tensions have come to a head between the two affiliated groups.
The Saudi-led coalition released a statement in which it expressed its support for Saleh’s move against the Houthis, adding that his return to the position defended by Riyadh would allow Yemen to regain its Arab nature and be freed from Iranian sectarian terrorist militias, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA.
At least 40 people were killed, including civilians, and dozens wounded in the last few hours in Sana’a amid fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-Saleh forces, according to sources from both camps and eyewitnesses.
Fighting started overnight when Houthis tried to access the houses of several commanders of the Republican Guard, which is loyal to Saleh, and leaders of the General People’s Congress party, run by the former president.
The clashes took place in the neighborhoods of Haddad, Baghdad and al-Jazair and in the political district where Saleh’s residence is located.
Several residents said Houthi rebels had used tanks and armored vehicles to try to attack areas where Saleh’s supporters are present.
Explosions were heard in the Yemeni capital until dawn and the neighborhoods remained closed to passersby Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, pro-Saleh forces on Saturday took control of the province of Dhamar, 100 kilometers (some 62 miles) south of Sana’a, from Houthi rebels.
The Interior Ministry, which is loyal to the former president, reported the seizure of the province in a statement, adding that the pro-Saleh forces have taken control of eight areas around Sana’a from the Houthi rebels.