Egypt’s highest academic authority for Sunni Islam, al-Azhar, slammed the Yemeni rebel group Houthis' ban on Tarawih, special night prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In a statement, al-Azhar said the Houthi ban in rebel-held areas "is contrary to the principles of religions and international conventions that call for respect of freedom of belief and protection of worship places."
On Saturday, the Yemeni Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments), accused Houthi rebels of banning Tarawih prayers in rural areas under rebel control.
Houthi rebel leader Mohammad Ali al-Houthi, for his part, criticized al-Azhar's statement, describing the Tarawih prayers as a "heresy."
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the exiled internationally recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been fighting the rebels since March 2015.
According to the United Nations, Yemen faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The war that has ravaged the country since 2015, largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed over 100,000 people, including many civilians, and destroyed the economy and vital infrastructure. Accordingly, the country is now on the brink of what could be the world’s worst famine in over 100 years.