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Witnesses say Houthis, military battle near Yemen's presidential palace as civilians flee

  • File-This Sept. 26, 2012, file photo shows Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of Yemen, as he addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters.  Witnesses say rebel Houthi militiamen are battling soldiers near Yemen's presidential palace. The status of President  Hadi was not immediately clear.The battle began early Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Witnesses say they heard heavy machine gun fire and mortars falling in the neighborhood. Civilians in the area fled the fighting. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

    File-This Sept. 26, 2012, file photo shows Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of Yemen, as he addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters. Witnesses say rebel Houthi militiamen are battling soldiers near Yemen's presidential palace. The status of President Hadi was not immediately clear.The battle began early Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Witnesses say they heard heavy machine gun fire and mortars falling in the neighborhood. Civilians in the area fled the fighting. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 file photo, A Houthi Shiite rebel holds a weapon while on patrol following dawn prayers attended by supporters of the rebels on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, in Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi rushed to reach a cease-fire with the country’s most potent Houthi rebels after hours of gunbattles and firing of mortar shells in heavy clashes near Yemen’s presidential palace Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 morning, according to Yemeni information minister said (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 file photo, A Houthi Shiite rebel holds a weapon while on patrol following dawn prayers attended by supporters of the rebels on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, in Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi rushed to reach a cease-fire with the country’s most potent Houthi rebels after hours of gunbattles and firing of mortar shells in heavy clashes near Yemen’s presidential palace Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 morning, according to Yemeni information minister said (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015 file photo, A Houthi Shiite rebel poses for a picture as he guards a street in Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi rushed to reach a cease-fire with the country’s most potent Houthi rebels after hours of gunbattles and firing of mortar shells in heavy clashes near Yemen’s presidential palace Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 morning, according to Yemeni information minister said. Arabic writing on banner reads, "at your order, oh messenger of Allah" (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015 file photo, A Houthi Shiite rebel poses for a picture as he guards a street in Sanaa, Yemen. Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi rushed to reach a cease-fire with the country’s most potent Houthi rebels after hours of gunbattles and firing of mortar shells in heavy clashes near Yemen’s presidential palace Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 morning, according to Yemeni information minister said. Arabic writing on banner reads, "at your order, oh messenger of Allah" (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)  (The Associated Press)

Witnesses say rebel Houthi militiamen are battling soldiers near Yemen's presidential palace. The status of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear.

The battle began Monday morning. Witnesses say they heard heavy machine gun fire and mortars falling in the neighborhood. Civilians in the area fled the fighting.

There was no word on state media about the violence as Sanaa was suffering a power outage at the time.

The Houthis seized large areas of Yemen, including Sanaa, last year as part of their protracted power struggle with Hadi. Critics say the Houthis are a proxy for Shiite Iran, charges the rebels deny.