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International airline suspends Yemen flights as bloody clashes kill 60

Sanaa International Airport closed and communications cut off in Yemen's capital after a night of clashes rocks Yemen
A Yemeni soldier stands guard in the capital Sana'a, which has been rocked by a Houthi rebel encampment since August (Twitter / @Sumol67)
Par MEE staff

A periodic ceasefire between Houthi rebels and government forces in Yemen’s capital Sana’a was shattered overnight on Thursday, in what was the bloodiest 12 hours of fighting since the Houthis began their encampment in the capital almost a month ago.

The clashes overnight killed 45 rebels, who headed for the capital in August from their stronghold in the northern province of Saada demanding greater political representation and an end to a hated fuel price increase, and 15 soldiers from the Yemeni army.

Houthi rebels claim that they came under fire from Yemeni forces, and subsequently returned fire, leading to significant loss of life on both sides.

The Yemeni authorities, however, claim that the rebels attacked the state television headquarters.

International flights, communications cut off

There was alarm after it was reported that Sana’a International Airport would be closed for 24 hours as fighting intensified.

Etihad Airways also announced on Thursday night that it is suspending all flights to Yemen until further notice.

In a statement the company, which had run flights to the capital four times a week, said that “the safety of our guests and staff is of paramount importance – we will continue to monitor the situation in Yemen.”

As well as international travel into and out of Yemen, communications within the capital were also cut off.

Since 02:30 on Thursday night local time (11:30 GMT), internet, mobile telephone and landline communications have been cut off, reports Yemeni news site Yemen Press.

Partial service had been restored to some mobile internet users by 09:30 local time on Friday (06:30 GMT), but the remainder of services remain down.

Hopes of ceasefire dashed

There had been positive indications on Thursday that a more lasting truce could be on the cards.

After meeting with UN special envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who has been mediating negotiations between the two sides, a Houthi spokesperson said the most recent round of talks had been “constructive and positive.”

Ali al-Kamaly, an activist from the Change Square movement, said on Thursday night that “fingers-on-triggers civilians” were holding their breath in areas around Shamlan, the area just north-east of central Sana’a that has seen fierce clashes in recent days.

Hopes were dashed, though, when fighting continued throughout the night in Shamlan, with rebels attacking the state television headquarters in the area.

The Yemeni army is now blocking the main road leading up to the building, after securing it from rebel attack.

There is a tentative calm in Sana’a on Friday morning, with several Yemeni news sites reporting that the streets of the capital have emptied of fighters from both sides. 

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