Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in Sanaa May 21, 2014 – REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
CAIRO – 4 December 2017: No-one knows what the conflict will look like without Ali Abdullah Salah.
First the Houthi-controlled radio station said it, then photos circulated on social media supported it, and finally his office confirmed it, Yemen’s ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been killed by Houthi rebels in the capital Sanaa.
Initial reports by Saleh's party denied that their leader had been killed, confirming that he is still leading his forces in their clashes against Houthi rebels in Sanaa. This was unsurprising, as often formal confirmations of death are postponed until all details are clear. However, in this case, confirmation f his death could not be postponed for much longer due to the overwhelming number of gruesome images of his body that circulated online.
The images of Saleh’s body on social media were eerily similar to those of Ghaddafi after he was killed in Sirte in 2011. Videos of a frail, lifeless body being dragged around the streets are symbolic of exuberance, and symbolic of disrespect. They convey power and signal in a new era.
that Saleh’s son, Khaled, has been taken captive, another similarity to the Ghaddafi downfall.
After being ousted from the presidency early 2012, Saleh and his loyal forces allied with Iranian-backed Houthi forces against Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government in 2014.
three days ago, and was killed by them today.
Reports have emerged throughout Monday of fierce clashes between Saleh’s forces and Houthi rebels, with many of Saleh’s known residences being targeted and attacked.
Recent reports say that Saleh was stopped in his car, dragged out by militiamen and summarily executed alongside four others.
Houthi rebels labelled his defection a “coup” on Saturday, accusing him of treason.
Since Saleh voiced his desire to end the needless killing and break his bond with the Houthi’s, the Saudi-led coalition tried to take advantage of the schism by stepping up airstrikes against Houthi forces.
It is expected that the news of Saleh’s death will not be welcomed by his party, the Saudi-led alliance, and the world at large. More significantly, this news comes as a final blow to the people of Yemen
Saleh hoped his step-back would help towards the Saudi-led coalition easing its bombing campaign of anti-government forces; however, this twist does not leave the future looking bright for the people of Yemen, who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War (WWII).
Houthi rebels in Sana'a – REUTERS
More than 8,000 people have been killed and 50,000 have been injured since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict in 2015, according to the United Nations (UN).
The fighting and the Saudi-imposed blockade have also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid, creating the world's largest food security emergency.
Reports coming from Sanaa say that the Houthi rebels have taken control of most the city. With Saleh taken out of the picture, the fate of his allied forces is uncertain. A unifying figurehead who ruled Yemen for 33 years, he asserted control over his loyal forces in a country broken down by sectarianism and conflict.
While Saudi Arabia was happy about the changing dynamics in the country in the hope that it would be the first step towards a conclusion, now the situation is uncertain. What IS certain, is that retaliation is imminent.
Although Saleh’s death makes the Houthi rebels appear militarily tough and resilient after condemning Saleh’s defecation on Saturday, this only makes them more exposed. Not only are they without their major ally on the ground, the political schism with Saudi Arabia has increased immeasurably, leaving the Houthi rebels in the shadows.
The Saudi-led coalition has made it clear from the beginning that it WILL control the situation in Yemen through firepower. With the situation now firmly out of its hands, they are likely to attack from all fronts, and the people of Yemen will be the ones who suffer the response, however disproportionate it is.