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Yemen's Houthi rebels dig in after ceasefire talks scrapped

After failure of ceasefire talks to end Houthi encampments, disturbances continue in capital Sanaa
Houthi rebels build their camp near Yemen's Interior Ministry headquarters in Sanaa (AA)

Yemen’s capital Sanaa is encircled by camps of armed rebels, according to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Monday.

According to the statement, posted on the ministry’s website, the presence of armed sit-ins around checkpoints represents a “real threat to the capital’s security and stability.”

Houthi rebels, who have been camped out in the capital since Tuesday, said that remaining in their protest camps is the “only guarantee” that President Mansur Hadi will respond to the Houthis’ demands, chief among them the reinstatement of government fuel subsidies.

Yemen’s security services closed all the roads leading to Sanaa on Sunday “to prevent the infiltration of weapons and militants.”

Despite the security crackdown, which has seen an unprecedented deployment of army and police personnel in the capital, a number of disturbances rocked the city on Monday.

There were reports that two people were killed at a military checkpoint near to an army base in Hamdan, a northern province of Sanaa governorate.

Gunfire was also heard in the vicinity of the Interior Ministry headquarters in the capital, though no injuries were reported.

The incidents came a day after a huge anti-Houthi march processed through the streets of Sanaa in support of the government on Sunday - many demonstrators held aloft posters bearing the faces of army personnel allegedly killed by Houthi rebels.

Anti-Houthi protestors march through Sanaa (AA)

The disturbances also come on the back of the failure of talks between rebel leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi and a delegation for the government.

In a speech on Sunday, the Houthi leader said that negotiations had broken down because the government had joined talks “empty-handed” and were not willing to make the necessary concessions.

After the breakdown of the talks, the Arab League expressed its concern over the situation in Yemen.

The League’s general secretary, Nabil al-Arabi, said on Monday that he is worried by recent developments in the country and particularly in Sanaa.

Alluding to the Houthi encampments that have sprung up, he expressed his “wholesale rejection for any attempts to undermine the political process in Yemen”, warning of sanctions against those who fail to abide by “laws and protocols to protect freedom of expression.”

The United Nations Security Council was due to meet to discuss the situation in Yemen on Monday, but postponed the talks because Jamal Benomar, special adviser on Yemen, is still holding consultations with a range of political forces in the country.

The meeting, rescheduled to 29 August, will discuss classifying Houthi rebels as a terrorist organisation, as well as putting seven of their leaders on the international terror list, reports Yemeni news site Yemen Now.