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Here's How the Yemeni Conflict Is Escalating Here's How the Yemeni Conflict Is Escalating

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Here's How the Yemeni Conflict Is Escalating

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Yemeni anti-government protesters hold a giant Yemeni flag during a protest calling for the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the flashpoint city of Taiz (Taez), 255 kms south of Sanaa, on April 22, 2011. (AFP/Getty Images)

Reports from Yemen today are mainly focusing on the street battles between government forces and armed tribesmen (pictured above) in the capital, Sanaa, which killed at least 41 people, according to the AP. But the unrest in the country, fueled by nearly four months of protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, is actually playing out on numerous fronts this week, highlighting just how fragmented and fragile Yemen is right now. Let's take a brief tour of the various flashpoints:

Clashes With Tribes in Sanaa: The skirmishes between Yemeni forces and tribesman loyal to loyal to the family of Hamid al-Ahmar, Saleh's most powerful tribal rival, spilled into new neighborhoods today, as the two sides jockeyed for control of government buildings. Sanaa's residents, according to the AP, had to "cower in basements or brave gunfire to fetch bread and water." The Guardian describes the Hasaba neighborhood, where fighting is fiercest, as a "ghost-town where Kalashnikov-wielding tribesmen stalk the streets." This video from The Telegraph shows some of the explosions in the capital:

 

And this Reuters photo shows families fleeing their homes in Sanaa:

 

Peaceful Protests in Sanaa: The New York Times reminds us that even with the chaos in Sanaa, thousands of peaceful protesters are still camped out in "Change Square," demanding that Saleh step down. This AP photo captures one demonstration today:

Clashes With Protesters in Taiz: The Times explains that the southern city of Taiz is currently in a state of lockdown after government forces and plainclothes gunmen broke up Yemen's largest anti-government sit-in earlier this week, killing at least 50 people, according to the U.N. This Reuters photo shows protesters running from firing soldiers:

 

Clashes With Al-Qaeda and Islamic militants in Zinjibar: Yemeni troops are also battling to recapture the coastal city of Zinjibar, which was seized by several hundred al Qaeda and Islamist militants over the weekend.

Diplomatic Pressure: On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the conflict in Yemen cannot end, and political and economic reform cannot begin, until Saleh signs a Gulf-mediated deal to step down--a move he has thrice rejected at the last minute.

Just as important as all these fronts is the front that currently isn't active. The Times notes that Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who defected to the opposition in March, has kept his troops from the street battles in Sanaa, though they are protecting peaceful protesters and, according to the AP, occasionally accompanying tribal fighters as they seize government buildings. If those troops do get involved, the Times adds, the violence currently raging in pockets of Yemen could spread throughout the country. 

Want to add to this story? Comment below or send the author of this post, Uri Friedman, an email. Have a hot tip or story idea? Let us know on the Open Wire.

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