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Houthi Rebels Strike Peace Deal With Yemeni Government

The agreement comes after days of violence that forced the shutdown of schools and other operations in the Yemeni capital Sana'a.

by Liz Fields
Sep 20 2014, 9:05pm

Photo de Hani Mohammed/AP

Article updated Sunday, September 21 at 4:30 pm

Yemen's government agreed to a peace deal with Houthi rebels Sunday after days of violence that forced the shutdown of schools and other operations in the capital Sana'a, state media reported.

Jamal Benomar, the UN's envoy to Yemen, said Saturday that the peace deal "will lay the foundations for national partnership and for security and stability in the country."

The state media reports did not elaborate on details of the agreement and no further announcements have been made. Independent journalist Iona Craig, who is on the ground in Yemen, reported that a new government will be formed in the coming days, and nominees for a new Prime Minister will be submitted by the Houthis and rebel group al Herak.

Earlier in the weekend, the country's Supreme Security Commission announced it was imposing a curfew in four parts of Sana'a, and the Ministry of Education said that schools across the capital would be closed until fighting subsided. The University of Sana'a was also shuttered Saturday after a mortar round fell inside its grounds.

'Yemen: A Failed State.' Watch the VICE News documentary here.

The stepped-up security measures came on the same day Yemen's state-run television station was stormed by the Shiite rebels. Broadcasts were temporarily taken off-air and several staff members were trapped inside, witnesses told the Associated Press. Video showed smoke rising above the building, which has been bombarded by three consecutive days of shelling.

In a written message broadcast Saturday, the television station appealed for outside assistance to help rescue its employees from the violence.

Government troops clashed with Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a on September 20, with reports indicating that a Yemeni government-run TV compound was under attack, trapping several civilians.

Yemen has faced a number of escalating crises in recent weeks amid growing political instability and calls from rebels for the government to step down.

The Houthi insurgency, coupled with the secessionist insurrection in the country's south and the spread of al Qaeda militant violence, has severely threatened Yemen's prospects of transitioning to a stable democracy in the wake of former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh's ousting during the Arab Spring protests of 2012.

Weeks of fighting between Houthi rebels and Sunni-dominated government forces has left more than 140 people dead and caused thousands more to flee the area.

Clashes Friday night killed 16 people who were fleeing mortar fire in a mini-bus in the Shamlan district in the north of Sana'a, Reuters reported. Thirteen Houthi rebels were also reportedly killed Saturday during clashes with the army.

US cluster bombs keep killing civilians in Yemen. Read more here.

Elsewhere in the capital, fighting was reported near the religious university of Iman and close to the interior ministry, where Houthis have been camped out protesting and calling for the President's resignation.

In a statement Sunday, Yemen's Interior Minister Hussein al-Terb urged police to "cooperate" with the Houthis to keep order and security in the capital. Earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry put security forces on high alert, telling units to remain at their posts and guard weapons.

What do the protesting Houthis really want in Yemen? Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields