Houthi rebels control Yemeni capital after ceasefire

Sanaa: The Shia Houthi rebels Monday set up checkpoints and deployed fighters to guard key government institutions in Yemen’s capital Sanaa as they overran the city after week-long battles against the army and Sunni militia.

The rebels set up checkpoints on the main road to the airport which has been shut down since last Friday due to fighting in northern Sanaa, Xinhua reported.

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Meanwhile, the group deployed fighters at prime minister’s office, defence ministry and central bank, where only a few military police were seen guarding the institutions with the rebels.

The interior ministry released a message on its website late Sunday, urging security forces not to confront the rebels.

The Houthi group launched offensive in northwestern Sanaa against Sunni Islah party and its ally 1st Armored Division since last Tuesday. After a week-long battle, the group dissolved the division led by Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who fought against the rebels in the country for years.

Earlier late Sunday, the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels signed a ceasefire deal after days of deadly clashes in Sanaa.

The two sides agreed to cease fire immediately, nominate a prime minister in a week and form a government within a month.

The Houthi group, however, refused to hand over towns and cities seized in the past weeks, withdraw fighters from all areas in Sanaa and put an immediate end to protests, the presidency sources said.

The deal empowers the Shia Houthi rebels as it allows the group to play an important role in forming a cabinet and determining the future control of the army.

The peace agreement put an end to the deadly clashes between the rebels and army supported by Sunni militia which broke out Tuesday in northwestern Sanaa that has left more than 200 people dead, including 50 civilians.

The deal was signed hours after Houthi rebels took control of key government and army institutions, including prime minister’s office, national TV station and army’s 1st Armoured Division.

The Houthis have been fighting against the Yemeni army in the country’s north for years. The last ceasefire deal between the rebels and government was reached in 2010, after a six-year war during which the rebels took control of Saada province.

However, the group started to further its influence to south in late 2013 when it provoked sectarian conflicts in the northern Amran province, 60 km north of Sanaa.

After it defeated the army and Sunni militia in Amran, the group advanced to the capital, taking a string of towns and cities in the past weeks.