Yemenis took to the streets on Wednesday in various cities, including in the capital Sana’a, to celebrate the anniversary of Saleh’s downfall.
Yemen is currently the scene of massive political changes with fighters from Shia Ansarullah movement now in the control of Sana’a and some other major towns and cities across the country.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, leader of Yemen’s Shia Ansarullah movement Abdel-Malik al-Houthi warned against any plots to hinder the reform process in the country.
“The disturbed powers who are causing the instability, if they ever decide to play the economic card, it’s going to be affected and sure it will be affected and their interests are going to be affected, because the Yemeni people will never stand still while watching them causing them harm and they know exactly what to do,” al-Houthi said.
The revolutionary leader defended his party’s decision to form a new revolutionary comittee, saying that the formation of such a transitional council can thwart all plots against Yemen as it will put an end to the political vacuum.
Meanwhile, the Houthi movement continues to bolster its control over various parts of the troubled Yemen. Military officials confirmed Tuesday that Houthis took control of the province of Bayda, which is viewed as the main gateway to Yemen’s Sunni-inhabited south.
Houthi gained control of the capital city of Sana’a in September 2014, following four days of battle with army forces loyal to the country’s former dictator. The revolutionaries say the Yemeni government has been incapable of properly running the affairs of the country and providing security.
As Western diplomats and staff fled Yemen on Wednesday to mount pressure on Houthis, concern widened with Saudi Arabia arming loyal tribesmen across its southern border and Egypt readying a military unit to intervene if needed.
The US, British and French moved to close their embassies. It is reported that Popular Volunteer committee Forces seized about 20 vehicles left by US diplomats and Marines at Sanaa’s airport, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Americans evacuated after destroying documents and heavy weapons at the embassy.
The Houthis also seized weapons found in the US vehicles, the officials added, — apparently referring to personal sidearms that the Pentagon said the Marines left behind because they could not take them on their departing commercial flight. Later Pentagon spokesman said Marines destroyed their light arms before entering commercial flight.
While Yemen has been in chaos for years, events took a dramatic new turn when the houthis , known as Ansarallah or Popular Volunteer committee Forces took over the capital last fall and have spread over more of the country. Their goal is fighting with corruption in government and fighting with local al-Qaeda terrorists.
In January, the Ansarallah put US-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet ministers under pressure, leading to their resignations. Subsequently, the Houthis, who are followers of the Shiite Zaydi sect in Sunni-majority Yemen, dissolved parliament and declared they were taking over the government.
As Ansarallah fighters advance to take more ground, Yemeni officials said Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, was sending arms and funds to tribesmen in Yemen’s Marib province to bolster them against the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia has in recent months repeatedly stated its concern over the Houthis’ power grab, but the deeply secretive oil-rich kingdom has claimed nothing about arming or funding tribesmen there to fight the Shiite Houthis.
Marib’s tribal leaders, like many others in Yemen, have been on the receiving end of Saudi largesse for decades, and some of them hold Saudi nationality.
Also Egypt has set up a special rapid deployment force that could intervene if the Houthis threaten shipping lanes in the strategic Red Sea, according to three Egyptian security officials.
Yemen lies on one side of Bab al-Mandab, the narrow southern entrance of the Red Sea. The corridor leads up the Egyptian and Saudi coasts to Egypt’s Suez Canal, a key sea route for oil traffic from the Gulf region.
The Egyptians and Saudis were coordinating a joint military response to deal with any eventuality in Yemen, including the disruption of shipping, the officials said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have forged close military ties since Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took office in June, with frequent joint war games, including naval exercises in the Red Sea. Thousands of Egyptian Special Forces are embedded with their Saudi counterparts on the kingdom’s border with Iraq as a precaution against militants of the extremist ISIS group, according to the officials.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not new to military involvement in Yemen.Saudi Arabia fought a brief border war against the Houthis in 2010 to halt incursions over the frontier. Egypt in the early 1960s deployed thousands of troops in Yemen to support a republican coup that toppled a monarchy subscribing to Zaydi Shiism, like the Houthis.
Houthi seized the province of Bayda, south of Sanaa, on Tuesday with help from government forces. Bayda is widely viewed as the gateway to the country’s south, but taking over that region is unlikely to be easy.
Houthis have captured territory largely because of deals with provincial powers and massive help from army and police units and popular support.