A surprise 7 July appearance on Yemeni state TV by President Ali Abdullah Saleh is behind a recent country-wide spike in violence, say observers.
Analyst Adel al-Shujaa said the TV appearance surprised opposition leaders who reacted by mobilizing grassroots support for renewed protests, which have led to more violence. “It was a shock for them," he added. "They were thinking that he is dead or at least incapacitated.”
Saleh is still in Saudi Arabia where he is receiving treatment following an attack on his palace on 3 June.
Dozens of people have been killed or injured in various governorates, according to local media reports, since 7 July.
Mohammed Al-Dhahri, a professor of political science and leading protest activist, said that while “Saleh is physically alive but politically dead,” the youth would escalate their protests until their “revolution” achieved its objective - “ousting the regime”.
In the southern city of Taiz, local media reports said at least five civilians were killed and dozens of others injured in two days of intense clashes on 9-11 July between Republican Guard forces, led by Saleh’s son Ahmad, and armed tribesmen supporting the uprising. Several dozen families fled their homes after mortars hit many homes in the city's Radha and Thaura neighbourhoods.
Hundreds flee northern outskirts of Sana’a
In the capital Sana’a, the northern Arhab and Nihm districts have seen an exodus since 8 July of hundreds of civilians fleeing to safer areas after Republican Guard forces intensified their offensive against armed tribesmen attempting to control strategic mountain-top positions overlooking the city.
“Some Arhab civilians are now sheltering in caves,” Mohammed Hamid, an eyewitness from the neighbouring Bani Heshaish District, told IRIN. “Our homes, which are 20km from Arhab, were shaken by the use of big missiles in the operations.”
|Conflict is fuelling a new crisis in the south, where more than 45,000 people have been recently displaced in Aden, Lahj and surrounding areas… This number is increasing daily, in addition to the more than 300,000 displaced elsewhere in the country|
Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of the Hashid Tribal Confederation and a key supporter of the uprising, condemned the government's decision to set up military barricades and checkpoints on roads and neighbourhoods in the al-Hasaba area, north of Sana’a.
“We don’t know why the Republican Guards continue to set up checkpoints in the neighbourhood surrounding [Sheikh Sadeq] al-Ahmar’s house,” Abdulqawi al-Qaisi, a manager at Sheikh al-Ahmar's office, told IRIN.
“They want us to ask our gunmen to go home. This is something we cannot do until they remove the newly established checkpoints in the area.”
The government accuses al-Ahmar gunmen of placing heavy weapons in al-Wadie building in Mazda Street, some 2km from the Interior Ministry.
In the southern governorate of Dhalea a Republican Guard officer and two of his troops were killed in an “ambush by gunmen”, the Ministry of Interior said on 10 July. Unidentified assailants, it said, opened fire with automatic weapons on a jeep in the village of Thalaet, west of Dhalea, killing Lotf Al Mazlum, a Republican Guard officer, and two soldiers, and wounding two civilians.
The region is a stronghold of the Southern Movement which seeks independence for south Yemen. The south was a sovereign state prior to unification with the north in 1990.
Protests were also reported in the western Red Sea port city of Hodeidah where at least 10 protesters were injured by gun-fire and up to 20 others stabbed on 10 July.
In his TV appearance Saleh, wearing a white robe, accused "terrorist elements" of attacking his palace. He called for dialogue as the only way out of the political crisis that has brought the impoverished country to the brink of civil war, but accused his opponents of “practising the politics of hijacking and arm-twisting".
“Conflict is fuelling a new crisis in the south, where more than 45,000 people have been recently displaced in Aden, Lahj and surrounding areas," UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos warned on 11 July.
"This number is increasing daily, in addition to the more than 300,000 displaced elsewhere in the country. In the south, particularly in Abyan, access is limited due to insecurity and fuel shortages, although some aid, including medical care, food and non-food items, is being provided… While improved access in the north has meant that aid is getting to thousands of people in need; an estimated 14,000 families remain out of reach."