Source: Yemen Times

Houthi fighters on Saturday took control of Matna city, the capital of Bani Matar, a district only ten kilometers from the capital Sana’a, Ali Al-Ghashmi, the deputy governor of Sana’a governorate, told the Yemen Times.

Matna is an important strategic gain for the Houthis because it is located on the Sana’a-Hodeida Road, a vital thoroughfare for commodities being supplied to the capital from the Red Sea port in Hodeida.

The Special Operations Command, the largest military camp in the vicinity of the capital, is located near Matna in the town of Subaha. Additionally, control of the road connecting Subaha to Shibam in Mahwit governorate was taken over by the Houthis on Friday, Al-Ghashmi said.

On Friday evening, Houthi rebels clashed with security forces in the Al-Jiraf neighborhood near Sana’a International Airport, according to local sources and the Ministry of Interior.

Two police cars were ambushed  after the police arrested Houthi members near the Political Office of the Houthis, according to the Ministry of Interior. Seventeen policemen were reportedly injured. According to a Houthi press statement, there were no Houthi casualties but the Political Office building sustained some damage.

Ali Al-Emad, member of the Political Office of the Houthis, said in a conversation with the Yemen Times that security forces of the Interior Ministry attempted to break into the Houthis’ Political Office and that the Houthis defended themselves.

A local source who lives in Al-Jiraf and asked not to have his name published in fear of reprisals, said that following the incident Houthi fighters mobilized around the Political Office and set up checkpoints at the neighborhood’s entry points.

As the Houthis were encroaching on Sana’a the Defense Ministry on Sunday proposed a ceasefire agreement in Amran and other fighting fronts. An earlier agreement on June 4, which was also supervised by the Defense Ministry, failed to hold.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, a committee will visit the fighting fronts and will oversee the removal of “all new military  posts set up by all parties in Amran, Arhab district, Hamdan district and Bani Mater district. The agreement is due to come into effect by Thursday.

The text of the agreement also reads as follows: “immediate change of military, security and administrative leaders must be undertaken [in Amran] within the maximum period of a month.” Since March the Houthis have been demanding the removal of the 310th Armored Brigade’s commander in Amran, General Hamid Al-Qushaibi. They accuse Al-Qushaibi of being loyal to the Islah party, with which the Houthis have very tense relations.

The recent developments in the conflict with the Houthis echoes the 70-day siege of the capital in 1968 by armed tribesmen supportive of re-establishing the northern imamate. The imamate’s supporters attempted a coup against the newly-formed republican government, but failed to control Sana’a after the republicans used warplanes against them.

The Houthis, a heavily armed rebel group made up of Zaydi-Shiites, are accused of attempting to revive imamate rule in north Yemen, which lasted from 1918 to 1962. They entered into six rounds of war with the national army between 2004 and 2010, and have been engaged in periodic armed confrontations since then.

“These accusations were made when we were fighting in Maran,” said Al-Emad, referring to the hometown of the Houthis’ founder Hussein Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi in Sa’ada. “We are defending ourselves,” he said.

The Houthis took over Sa’ada in March 2011 during the uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They participated in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that aimed at establishing a new political system for the country following Saleh’s departure from office.

The NDC outcome to disarm all militias of heavy weaponry has yet to be carried out.

“Because the interim government, headed by Hadi, failed to implement the NDC outcomes, Ansar Allah [the Houthi military wing] is obliged to struggle to access the implementation of the NDC outcomes,” said Al-Emad.

Ridhwan Al-Hamdani, a senior editor at the state-run Saba News Agency, said that “the state will pay a heavy price if it does not act quickly to prevent the Houthis from controlling the Hodeida-Sana’a road.”

Al-Ghail and Darwan, villages in Hamdan district about six kilometers away from Al-Azraqin security checkpoint—the northern entrance of the capital Sana’a—witnessed on Friday heavy fighting between the Houthis and local armed tribesmen affiliated to the predominantly Sunni Islah Party.

These new fighting fronts have expanded amid ongoing battles between the Houthis and the 310th Armored Brigade in Amran, 50 kilometers north of the capital, since mid-May.

In March, President Hadi met tribesmen from areas surrounding Sana’a, including Bani Mater in the west, Hamdan in the north, and Bani Hushaish in the east, according to Saba News. Hadi called on the tribesmen to defend the capital.

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