The civil war in Yemen seemed to enter a new phase this week, as Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed, Monday, during an attack on his convoy by Houthi rebels. Forces loyal to Mr. Saleh and Houthi fighters have seen conflicts since Wednesday in the capital, Sanaa. According to The Red Cross, at least 125 people are dead, and 238 injured. Appearing on TV Saturday, Mr. Saleh had offered to “turn the page” and negotiate with the Saudi-led coalition if it lifted its blockade of northern Yemen and halted airstrikes.
The coalition began airstrikes in 2014, after Houthi rebels took the capital, and forced the internationally recognized government—led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi—to flee to the southern port city of Aden.
For his part, Mr. Saleh aligned himself with his former foes, the Shia Houthi, after his ouster in 2011 following six months of protest. Their uneasy alliance, backed by Iran, has taken control of most of Yemen’s population centres during a three-year civil war.
The Saudi coalition, with support from the United States, has been bombarding Houthi-held parts of the country since the start of the war. The conflict is just one of many proxy wars throughout the region pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran in a widening regional “cold war”.
Though the coalition insists it does not target civilians, they have often found themselves in the crosshairs. In an especially infamous incident, at least 140 were killed last October when a Saudi jet accidentally bombed a funeral reception. Smaller incidents are commonplace,
All told, the civil war has seen more than 10,000 killed (approximately half of which are civilians), nearly 50,000 injured, and 3 million displaced. The blockade of the country has created the worlds largest food security emergency and contributed to a Cholera epidemic which has killed 2,211 since April.
In his televised speech Mr. Saleh said, “I call on our brothers in neighboring countries… to stop their aggression and lift the blockade… and we will turn the page.” He also condemned the Houthis for what he called “blatant assault” on members of his party, the General People’s Congress. The Houthi leadership has called Mr. Saleh’s moves “a coup”. The coalition said in a statement that Mr. Saleh’s decision to “take the lead and to side with their people will free Yemen of… militias loyal to Iran”.
Mr. Saleh’s had been attempting to present himself as a unifying figure. Speaking to BBC News on Saturday, Adam Baron, a Yemen analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations said the shift in allegiances could “create a new front in a civil war that already has numerous fronts.”
This now seems almost certain, as officials from Mr. Saleh’s General People’s Congress confirmed his death. “He was martyred in the defense of the republic,” party leader Faiqa al-Sayyid told AFP. Only time will tell what Mr. Saleh’s death and the collapse of the Houthi’s alliance with the General People’s Congress will bring for Yemen.