Clashes between government forces and protesters in Yemen continued to escalate into violence, as President Ali Abdullah Saleh insisted on staying in his post until the end of this year, despite widespread calls for his immediate removal. Like other Middle Eastern leaders, Saleh is the head of a largely autocratic government that has come in for criticism in the wake of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, large protests in Bahrain, and Oman, and civil war in Libya.
In the key port city of Aden, the streets were virtually empty of workers, with opposition groups trying to convince people to protest in a low-level way by refusing to pay taxes or utility bills. Opposition leaders are urging other low-level protests such as sit-ins and roadblocks.
Protesters by the thousands have gathered in the main squares of major cities in the coastal country, calling for an end of Saleh's rule after 32 years in power. The president, who recently lost a few key military commanders because of the crackdowns, has offered to hand over power to other elected officials but only at a time and place of his choosing and only after both sides are satisfied with a succession plan.
Saleh's response has been, at times, a call for a crackdown. In a series of responses, government troops have opened fire on protesters, killing more than 80 and wounding dozens. Hundreds more have been treated for tear gas inhalation.
The appearance of pro-Saleh crowds on the streets of major cities has only heightened the threat of violence.