Update: The New York Times reports that Saleh agreed to be flown to Saudi Arabia for urgent medical care on Saturday, and he has handed over power to his deputy, according to the Washington Post. Saudi officials said Mr. Saleh’s condition after yesterday's attacks had worsened overnight and he had agreed to treatment in Riyadh. The BBC reports that Saleh has been left with shrapnel near his heart and second-degree burns to his chest and face. If he leaves, Saleh might have trouble returning to his country. Some analysts said to the Times that Saudi Arabia would not have agreed to allow Saleh to come to Riyadh without extracting a promise that he would cede power, as officials from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states have been pressuring him to do for weeks.
After yesterday's attacks on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in his palace in the capital, Sanaa, there was speculation that his wounds were far worse than what was reported by officials. Yemen's deputy information minister said Saleh had "scratches on his face" after opposition tribal fighters fired rockets at his compound. However, despite officials promising that Saleh would appear before the country, he did so only using an audio message. Saleh has also not been seen since the attack.
However, there may be another explanation. On Saturday, al Arabiya television reported that Saleh had left Yemen for Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports. Yemen's state TV said six officials, including the prime minister and the speakers of both houses of parliament, have gone for treatment at hospitals in Saudi Arabia after the attacks. But if Saleh has indeed likewise left his country, it may very well be extremely difficult for him to return.
For many decades, Saudi Arabia has been both a foe and an ally of Yemen. From an ideological standpoint, Saudi Arabia does not want to promote the insurgency by supporting protesters, hence it has backed Saleh, notes the Foreign Policy Association. But lately, Saudi Arabia has been pushing Saleh to sign a deal to step down, according to Reuters. Leaving the country, even for medical treatment, could be seen as "the first step in a transfer of leadership."
But a Yemeni official told Reuters that "Saleh is still in Sanaa." Officials also told Al-Jazeera that Saleh was taken to the defense ministry hospital to be treated for his injuries. And while Saleh's whereabouts remain unknown, his forces have been retaliating against the attacks by shelling the homes of the leaders of the Hashed tribal federation. Three shells also struck near the university campus in the city center where opponents of Saleh have been holding a sit-in for four months demanding his exit, Al-Jazeera reports. Amid the heightening violence, Germany ordered the closure of its embassy in Yemen and the rapid repatriation of its staff on Saturday. Britain also intensified calls for its citizens to immediately leave and warned of an "extremely serious escalation of violence."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.