Shia Houthi fighters have surrounded the main residence of Yemen's Prime Minister Khalid Bahah in the capital, Sanaa, after he escaped an attack on his convoy, further fueling accusations of a coup attempt, officials have said.
Bahah's Republican Palace was surrounded despite a second cease-fire reached by the two sides that followed unprecedented clashes in Sanaa on Monday, government spokesman Rajih Badi has said.
Bahah was inside the Republican Palace at Tahrir Square, which he has resided in since he was appointed prime minister in October, as the armed group encircled it, Badi told the AFP news agency.
The heavily armed fighters were surrounding all three entrances to the palace in the city center, Badi added.
The aggression towards the senior official came despite a truce, which was accepted during a meeting on Monday between a representative of the Houthis and Yemen's defense and interior ministers.
The cease-fire was followed by battles on the streets between Yemeni army soldiers and Houthi fighters which began early on Monday near the presidential palace and quickly spread to other strategic areas in Sanaa.
The cease-fire was accepted during a meeting Monday between a representative of the Houthis and Yemen's defense and interior ministers.
The latest truce came after battles on the streets between Yemeni army soldiers and Houthi fighters which began early on Monday near the presidential palace and quickly spread to other strategic areas in Sanaa.
Witnesses said heavy machine-gun fire could be heard as mortars fell around the presidential palace.
Civilians in the area fled as columns of black smoke rose over the palace. Medics said at least two people had been killed and 14 others wounded as ambulance sirens wailed throughout Sanaa.
Hakim al-Masmari, editor-in-chief of The Yemen Post, described the fighting as much more dramatic than when the Houthis took control of the capital in September.
"This chaos is the first of its kind," Masmari told Al Jazeera.
Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf said the prime minister's convoy was attacked after he left a meeting with high-level Houthi representatives.
She said a Houthi convoy was also attacked — suggesting that a "third party" was involved. She did not specify who attacked the convoys.
Earlier, Sakkaf said no single party was in control of the city. She said some of the army was responding to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but that there were "some in uniform that don't obey their superior."
"I'm very worried that Al-Qaeda or other terror organizations will use the lack of order and target anybody," she said.
"This story is developing so quickly ... We may have a new Yemen by the end of the day, maybe a new system altogether."
She denied reports that the president had left Sanaa, saying he was still in his residence.
Earlier on Monday, Sakkaf had told state television that a cease-fire deal had been reached with the rebels. There was a brief lull in fighting, but gun battles resumed after just an hour.
In the initial stages of fighting, a military source in the presidential guard accused the Houthis of deploying fighters and setting up a checkpoint near the palace. He said the Houthis refused to withdraw and opened fire on the soldiers, after which the army responded.
However, a Houthi official told Al Jazeera that the presidential security forces attacked the Houthi checkpoint, leading to the clashes around the palace area.
Sanaa has been tense for the past two days following the Shia rebels' abduction of the president's chief of staff.
A deal signed in September between political parties and the Houthis called for the formation of a new unity government followed by the withdrawal of Houthi fighters from the capital. The fighters have remained in place.
The Houthis, who have launched attacks on Al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, are viewed as Shia Iran's ally in its regional struggle for influence with Saudi Arabia.
Al Jazeera and wire services