Yemen's powerful Shiite Houthi rebels shelled the residence of the country's embattled president today and simultaneously swept into the presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa, as a top military commander warned that a full-fledged "coup" was underway. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was inside the residence as it came under "heavy shelling" for half an hour, but he was unharmed and protected by guards, officials say. The dramatic development puts the US-backed Hadi into a precarious position and represents the starkest challenge to his authority since the Houthis swept into Sanaa from their northern stronghold and seized the capital in September.
The latest spasm of violence followed apparently unsuccessful negotiations earlier in the day between Hadi and a representative of the Houthis at his residence. The negotiations focused on the shake-up of an 85-member commission tasked with coming up with the outline of Yemen's future federation, as stated in the draft constitution, Cabinet spokesman Rageh Badi says. Reforming the commission has long been overdue and was part of a UN-brokered peace deal following the Houthis' capture of Sanaa. The Houthis accuse Hadi of violating that deal by calling in the current members of the commission to a meeting days ago, prompting the rebels to retaliate and abduct his top aide, Ahmed bin Mubarak, and setting the wheels in motion for the latest violence. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the situation. More here. (Read more Yemen stories.)