Rebel Shiite Houthis battled soldiers near Yemen's presidential palace and elsewhere across the capital of Sanaa today as officials claimed a ceasefire had been reached to halt the violence—even as the convoy of the country's prime minister came under fire. The fighting near the palace marks the biggest challenge yet to the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by the Houthis, who seized the capital during their advance in September across parts of Yemen. Many believe deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, ousted in a deal after Arab Spring protests, has orchestrated their campaign.
The violence began early today, with witnesses saying heavy machine-gun fire could be heard as mortars fell around the presidential palace. Hadi doesn't live at the palace, but his home nearby was quickly surrounded by additional soldiers and tanks amid sporadic gunfire, witnesses say. The latest spasm of violence appears to be rooted in the Houthis' rejection of a draft constitution that divides the country into six federal regions. On Saturday, the Houthis kidnapped one of Hadi's top aides to disrupt a meeting scheduled for the same day that was to work on the new constitution. (Read more Yemen stories.)