Egypt closed its embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday, as some of the worst violence to flare up in months engulfed the city. The fighting began on Monday, as gun battles between Houthi militias and the national army erupted in the proximity of the presidential palace the same day.
The Houthis are a Shi’a rebel movement that took control of large parts of Sanaa in September, and also holds other territories in the country particularly in the north. The Houthis, who have been clashing with the presidential guards, are demanding greater influence in the design of a new constitution for the Sunni-majority country.
Fighting around the presidential palace is ongoing, and Houthi militias have also surrounded the prime minister’s residence. The Houthi militias have also taken control of the state television network and the official SABA news agency, Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf told the Associated Press. However, an immediate ceasefire was later announced by the Interior Minister Jalal Al-Rowaishan.
According to Yemen’s Ministry of Health, nine individuals died and 67 were injured in the fighting.
Despite the ceasefire, the Egyptian embassy, its military, cultural and press offices and the Egyptian school in Yemen have all been shut, Egypt’s ambassador in Yemen Youssef al-Sharkawi told Aswat Masriya.
US officials have told media that there are no plans to evacuate the American embassy in Sanaa.
In a statement after the ceasefire’s announcement, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Egypt is following the situation in Yemen with “great interest and concern”. The ministry called on all political parties to take responsibility to seeing the country out of the “political and security crisis”.
It called for clashing parties to “completely stop the use of weapons and resorting to violence, and [instead] rise to the level of the serious challenges facing Yemen…to achieve stability and peace and preserve its unity and independence”.
The statement continued to emphasise the “historical ties that bind the two countries and two brotherly peoples”.
Yemen has been divided between warring parties with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who claimed responsibility for the 7 January attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, also vying for control in the country. Their presence in the country is in addition to government forces and the Houthi movement.