Middle East

Yemen’s feuding rebel factions hold talks after deadly infighting

Houthi supporters hold their weapons as they attend a gathering ahead of the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad in Sanaa on Tuesday (Reuters)

Yemeni rebel factions held new talks Friday aimed at ending infighting that left at least three more people dead overnight and raised fears of a new front in the country's devastating three-year war.

The internal rift has shaken the fragile alliance between the Houthis and loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who joined ranks in 2014 to seize Sanaa.

Thursday night's violence in Sanaa came 24 hours after clashes at the Saleh mosque in the capital killed nine Houthi rebels and five Saleh supporters.

One source at the Jumhuriya hospital said late on Thursday that the death toll from the infighting had risen to as many as 18 rebels and six Saleh loyalists.

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Yemen war: Allies turn on each other as Saleh, Houthi forces clash in Sanaa

The former enemies drove President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government out of the capital, which has been rocked by rebel infighting for the past two nights.

In an effort to reach a truce, Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) said a joint committee had launched talks in Sanaa to find "a solution that would restore calm".

The Houthis, tribal rebels who hail from northern Yemen, confirmed they had also sent representatives to the meeting.

The GPC accused the Houthis, also known as Ansarullah, of targeting the ex-president's nephew, who is a military commander in the forces loyal to Saleh, late on Thursday.

"We were surprised by an armed attack by Ansarullah targeting the guards of the house of Brigadier Tareq Saleh, which left three dead and wounded three others," read a statement released by the party.

"We hold Ansarullah fully responsible."

The wider Yemen conflict has claimed at least 10,000 lives since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Hadi government's fight against the rebels in 2015, triggering what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The infighting in Sanaa comes as tensions soar between the rebels and the Saudi-led coalition, which imposed a crippling blockade on Yemen in response to a Houthi missile that was intercepted near Riyadh airport on 4 November.

The Houthis said they fired another ballistic missile that hit a "military target" in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. No casualties were reported.

The UN aid chief said on Friday that the blockade on Yemen should now be fully wound down to avoid “an atrocious humanitarian tragedy involving the loss of millions of lives, the like of which the world has not seen for many decades."

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