International airlines have suspended flights in and out of the capital city of Sanaa
International airlines have suspended flights in and out of the capital city of Sanaa (Photo: Reuters)

Sanaa, 25 Dzulqa’dah 1435/20 September 2014 (MINA) – The United Nations has failed to mediate a peace deal between Yemen’s Houthi opposition and the government, as Shia fighters advanced into the capital in an escalation of violence that has brought the country to the verge of a civil war.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, left the northern city of Saada on Friday after trying to mediate a deal that could pave the way for a new government and more political representation for the Houthis, Al Jazeera quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

Fighting between opposition and government troops continued for a second day in capital Sanaa on Friday as war planes few over the city, with the warring sides attacking each other a kilometre from the presidential palace compound.

Clashes in Sanaa kill dozens

Clashes had raged on the outskirts of Sanaa for days, with dozens of deaths reported.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, who has been following developments in the country for years, said the country is “just a few hours” from plunging into a civil war as the capital city is divided along sectarian lines, with one half run by Sunnis and the other by Houthis.

“The Houthis have control over most of the north of the country – from Saada to the gates of Sanaa. They have thousands of fighters and some military commanders and members of the former regime with them – and if in the coming hours they decide to control Sanaa, they can definitely control the capital,” Ahelbarra said.

“If the Sunnis decide to join the fight against the Houthis, it’s definitely going to be civil war in the country […] It’s either peace or war.”

The Houthis are a Shia movement whose traditional power base is in the north. They are demanding a new government and also more political power for their community.

Thousands of Houthis have been staging protests in Sanaa for more than a month, besieging ministries and blocking the road to the main airport.

Local officials said on Friday that hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes after the Houthi opposition shelled Yemen’s state television offices in Sanaa as they pushed into the capital.

Fighting in the capital had become so intense that, by Friday, international airlines suspended flights in and out of the nearby airport.

The government’s plans for a six-region federation in Yemen to address the grievances of the regions has been rejected by both the Shia oppositions and southern separatists. (T/P001/P3)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)