Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in Yemen’s capital Sanaa in support of the beleaguered government, as a large number of its opponents held a counter-demonstration vowing to intensify their protests until the cabinet resigns.
Supporters of the government mobilised in western Sanaa after the weekly Friday prayers, in one of the largest crowds to convene since the standoff first appeared.
Protesters chanted slogans in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and denounced rival protests that had crippled the capital,
The official Saba news agency said “millions” of Hadi’s supporters took to the streets in Sanaa and other parts of the country.
Simulaneously, supporters of Shia rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi amassed on a road leading to Sanaa’s airport where they have been demonstrating for weeks.
The rebels, also known as Houthis or Ansarullah, called for further action against the government, who they accuse of corruption and whose resignation they have been demanding.
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The Houthis have rejected overtures from Hadi to name a new prime minister, replace the government and reduce a disputed fuel price hike.
Protesters called for an escalation of the situation, and a senior member of the Houthis politburo called for “civil disobedience” and urged supporters to join in new protests on Sunday and Monday to keep up the pressure on the government.
The Houthis, who have been camped inside and outside Sanaa for weeks, have dismissed the government’s 30 percent cut in the fuel price hike and pressed demands to end alleged corruption.
The rebels have been fighting government forces and loyalist tribes in the north, where they have expanded their control beyond their traditional stronghold of Saada.
Clashes in the Ghayl and Majzar regions, east of the capital, killed 17 Houthis and five tribesmen on Thursday, tribal sources said.
Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.