Yemen appears to have moved a step closer to all-out civil war following the wounding of embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, on June 3.
Saleh was injured along with his prime minister and other officials after shells struck the presidential palace.
An official said four members of the elite Republican Guard were killed when two shells crashed into a mosque in the palace.
AFP reported that Saleh was “lightly wounded” in the attack in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.
The extent of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar’s injuries were not immediately clear.
One early report, from a Yemeni opposition television station, Suhail, claimed that Saleh had died in the incident.
But that was later contradicted by an official statement on state television, which said that the president was “well.”
The deputy information minister, Abdu al-Jandai, told Reuters that Saleh would “address the people in one hour.” However, the president has yet to speak.
TV footage showed smoke coming from the area around the palace.
Situation Rapidly Deteriorating
Authorities blamed the attack on dissident tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who have been locked in fierce clashes with government forces in north Sanaa since May 31.
It came soon after Yemeni troops, who have deployed heavy weaponry in their battle against the tribesmen, shelled the home of Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the biggest opposition party and brother of Sadiq ah-Ahmar.
Three shells also struck near the university campus in the city center, where Saleh’s opponents have been holding a sit-in since late January.
Yemen has tipped swiftly toward civil war this week, with forces of the Hashed tribal confederation battling troops still loyal to Saleh in the capital and elsewhere.
More than 370 people have been killed, at least 155 of them in the last 10 days, since a popular uprising began in January against Saleh’s reign of nearly 33 years.
More than 60 people have now been confirmed killed in the fighting in the capital since a fragile truce collapsed on May 31.
Before the attack on the palace, protesters paraded the coffins of 50 people it said were killed by Saleh’s forces.
Heavy fighting also spread for the first time to the southern part of Sanaa, an area held by forces loyal to Saleh and possibly marking a turning point in the conflict.
Explosions were heard in the southern city of Taiz, where the United Nations has said it is investigating reports that 50 people have been killed since May 29.
Two policemen were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, medical officials said, after security forces fired warning shot earlier at protesters gathering for Friday prayers on June 3.
Gulf Cooperation Council On Standby
Worries are growing that Yemen, home to a branch of Al-Qaeda known as AQAP and next to the world’s biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, could implode and become a failed state that poses a risk to global oil supplies and security.
The escalating conflict prompted the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on June 30 to call for an end to the fighting.
“The council states call on all parties to stop fighting immediately to stop bloodshed,” the GCC’s secretary general, Abdulattif al-Zayani told Al Arabiya TV. He said Gulf Arab states, who are trying to help broker a power transition deal, stood ready to exert all efforts to help Yemen.