Anti-government demonstrators and army defectors clashed with President Ali Abdullah Saleh's military forces in a battle that killed eighteen and wounded hundreds. The military opened fire on protesters in three major cities on Wednesday, aiming to finally quell the unrest that has been brewing for months. The violence began when around 2,000 protesters surged toward the cabinet building in downtown Sana'a, shouting "God is great" and "Allah, rid us of this tyrant." Guards initially tried to quell the protests with tear gas and water cannons before spraying the crowd with live ammunition. The fighting lasted for around four hours, and climaxed when defected soldiers arrived and began returning fire at Saleh's troops. In the city of Taiz, two teenage protesters were shot dead by snipers, and in the Red Sea port city of Hudaida, a protester was killed when security forces opened fire on marchers. So what's the solution? "Every attempt at mediation, including a recently flawed approach by the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council], has failed, as Saleh stalls and equivocates on public pledges, hoping to somehow survive in power," said Princeton University Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen. And Middle East experts fear that the conflict will open the door for Al Qaeda to strengthen its foothold in the area. "The last time al-Qaeda had this much time and space in which to operate," said Johnsen, "it put together the 2009 Christmas Day attack, which narrowly missed bringing down an airliner over Detroit."