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Thousands mark three years since rebel takeover of Yemen capital

Houthi rebels captured Sanaa and other areas in 2014 [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 September, 2017

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Yemen's Houthi rebels and their supporters gathered in the capital's most iconic square on Thursday, to mark the third anniversary since a takeover that plunged the country into chaos.
Thousands of supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels and their allies gathered in Sanaa on Thursday to mark three years since the rebel takeover of the capital that plunged Yemen into chaos and prompted a Saudi-led military intervention in the country.

The Houthis and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh massed in the capital's Sabaeen Square wile warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition flew overhead.

On the ground, security forces were on high alert, searching vehicles rigorously as they entered the capital and approached the square.

A massive stage hosted a string of speeches, punctuated by an all-men's choir, dressed in traditional Yemeni clothes, belting out military anthems. 

"From this blessed square we will liberate all of Yemen," the head of the rebel government, Abdel Aziz bin Habtoor, told the crowds.

"We will not compromise on the liberation of our lands," he said, accusing coalition members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of "direct occupation" of Yemen's southern and some of its eastern regions. 

Meanwhile, captured military vehicles belonging to the United Arab Emirates were paraded among the crowds as a show of defiance toward the coalition which vowed to reinstate the internationally recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi three years earlier.

On September 21, 2014, the rebels seized key institutions, including the government headquarters and military sites, with the aid of forces loyal to Saleh.

By January 2015, they forced President Hadi to flee to Yemen's second city, Aden, which he later declared as a "temporary capital".

But the conflict escalated in March that year when the Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and restoring Hadi to power. 

The fighting has caused a humanitarian catastrophe which the UN says is the world's worst, pushing seven million people to the brink of famine and sparking a cholera outbreak that the World Health Organisation says has killed 2,000 people.

More than 10,000 civilians and wounded thousands more, according to the United Nations.

Yemen is today split in two, with the Houthi-Saleh camp controlling the north and coalition-backed pro-government forces in the south

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