THE brittle ceasefire in strife-torn Yemen appeared to have broken down yesterday and several presidential guards were reported killed.
Yemeni Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf said that Houthi rebels had resumed shelling the residence of the country’s president and had entered the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa.
The minister posted on Twitter that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s private residence in central Sanaa had come under “heavy shelling since 3pm by forces positioned on rooftops facing his house.”
Mr Hadi was believed to be trapped inside the house.
Ms Sakkaf’s posting was confirmed by an army commander who said the rebels had raided the presidential palace and were looting its weapons depot.
Houthi fighters took full control of the palace after a brief clash with the compound’s security guards.
Guards at the palace, which houses the main presidential offices, handed over the compound following a brief confrontation.
Witnesses said they saw the Houthis seize armoured vehicles that had been guarding the entrances to the palace.
The loss of the administrative centre left the president powerless, with no means of summoning up any resistance.
And it was reported that only the presidential guard was putting up any fight on his behalf, with all other army units declining to be involved.
It had been reported earlier that the president and Houthi rebels were negotiating amid a tense ceasefire to discuss the outline of Yemen’s future constitution. But the talks were abruptly ended yesterday.
Armed Houthi rebels in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns had been deployed at checkpoints across the city and near the prime minister’s residence on Monday, while their fighters were patrolling Sanaa’s streets.
The Houthis had seized control of state media in Sanaa and clashed with soldiers in the biggest challenge to US-backed Mr Hadi’s government since September, when they swept in from their northern stronghold and seized the capital.
A tentative ceasefire was eventually put in place and held through the night.
But the truce lay in rags yesterday afternoon as the United Nations security council met in an emergency session to discuss the crisis.