Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Airstrikes keep residents of Sana’a in their homes

REBEL DIVIDE:The breakdown of an alliance between Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to a former president has led the Saudi-led coalition to increase its bombing raids


A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment at a hospital in the port city of Hodeidah on Sunday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday urged warring parties in Yemen to stop all ground and air assaults and called for a resumption of commercial imports into the country because “millions of children, women and men risk mass hunger, disease and death.”

Photo: AFP

Yemenis in the war-torn country’s capital crowded into basements overnight as Saudi-led fighter jets pounded the positions of Houthi rebels, who are now fighting forces loyal to a former president for control of the city.

Suze van Meegen, Sana’a-based protection and advocacy adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, yesterday said that the violence left aid workers trapped inside their homes and was “completely paralyzing humanitarian operations.”

“No one is safe in Sana’a at the moment. I can hear heavy shelling outside now and know it is too imprecise and too pervasive to guarantee that any of us are safe,” she said.

Fighting erupted between the Iranian-allied Shiite rebels and forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh last week, unraveling their fragile alliance, formed in the face of the internationally recognized government and Saudi-led coalition.

The breakdown of the alliance has led the coalition to step up its bombing of Houthi positions, in support of Saleh’s forces.

Tribes who support Saleh have tried to assert control over their areas across the city.

“The night was tough,”’ Robert Mardini, the regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, posted on his Twitter account. “Massive urban clashes with heavy artillery and airstrikes. Yemenis stuck in their homes, too scared to go out. Reduced access to water, health care, food and fuel.”

The Houthis and forces allied to Saleh swept into the capital, Sana’a, in 2014.

The Houthis dominate the northern part of the city, while Saleh’s forces hold the southern part, with much of the current fighting concentrated around the Political District, home to ministries and foreign embassies.

The Houthis appeared to be targeting the homes of Saleh’s family, political allies and commanders. Civilians living in the area are largely cut off from the outside world.

Houthi fighters yesterday blew up Saleh’s house in the center of Sana’a, residents reported, as his whereabouts remain unknown.

In the Fag Attan neighborhood, the Houthis used tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns to try to take out snipers loyal to Saleh, damaging or destroying several buildings.

Residents said the night was shattered by the sounds of gunfire and children screaming.

“It’s like horror movies,” said Bushra, a local woman who asked that her last name not be published for fear of retribution. “I have lived through many wars but nothing like this.”

Witnesses said the bodies of slain civilians and fighters littered the streets, as no ambulances were able to reach the area.

It was not immediately possible to gauge the toll of the battles.

Medical officials said at least 100 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded in the fighting, which began on Wednesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy on its doorstep. Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming them.

In the latest fighting, the coalition has thrown its support behind Saleh, dubbing his fight against the Houthis a “popular uprising.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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