Yemen coup
Houthi rebels in Yemen have surrounded the president's residence in Sanaa and fought off presidential guards. Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

The government of Yemen, led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has reached a tentative agreement with Houthi rebel leaders after days of clashes in the capital. The agreement has eased tensions in Sana’a and eased fears that the country was on the brink of a coup d'etat led by the Shiite rebels.

The tentative agreement, according to local media reports, gives Houthis more political power by allowing them to elect their own officials to governing bodies. In exchange, the Houthis agreed to release the president’s chief of staff and to withdraw from government buildings, including one military base, in the capital.

U.S. State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the U.S. had stayed in constant contact with Hadi and that Washington always considered him the legitimate representative of the people of Yemen.

Hussain al-Bukhaiti, a pro-Houthi activist living in Yemen, said that the events in Sana'a on Wednesday would lead to wider Houthi support for the government, not just in the capital, but in parts of the country most affected by the al Qaeda-led insurgency.

"At the same time, the Houthis know they can't fight al Qaeda by themselves," al-Bukhaiti said. "It's not a coup. It never was a coup. It is a negotiation."

For days it seemed as though the Houthi rebels were attempting to oust President Hadi from power. The Houthis captured Sana'a in September last year, except the presidential palace, and, following the takeover, signed a power-sharing deal with the government. But that power-sharing deal was never implemented properly, Houthi rebels claimed. Violence in the capital intensified after Houthis protested the nomination of a new prime minister by the president last year. Houthi leaders said they were not consulted and did not agree to the choice.

The seizure of the presidential palace on Tuesday, it seemed, was the last attempt by the Houthi rebels to take over the capital completely. But Houthi rebel leaders said Wednesday that though they had infiltrated the presidential compound, they had not ousted Hadi from power, and were willing to negotiate.

Al-Bukhaiti said residents in Sana'a were living their lives normally -- shops remained open and people did not abandon their homes. But international media outlets reported that more than 30 people had been killed because of the clashes in Sana'a.