Escalating violence in Sa’ada hinders IDPs return

25 Nov
More than 280,000 people remain displaced from their homes due to violence in Sa’ada. IDPs live in tents, relying on aid agencies for food and shelter.Yemen Online NewsMalak ShaherPublished:25-11-2010

SANA’A, Nov. 24 — Renewed fighting between Houthi rebels and a pro-government tribe had left at least 20 people dead and several wounded. The clashes are the worst since the cease fire signed in Feb. 2010, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Since Nov. 13, violence between the pro-government Galga tribe and the Houthis have killed at least 20 and injured another nine. Further fighting broke out in Bani Owaibary to the north of Sa’ada, killing six and injuring three.

“How can we return to our villages while the clashes continue to increase? We cannot return back as our houses are destroyed and danger is everywhere,” former Sa’ada resident, Ali Ahmad, told the Yemen Times. “Now I live with my three children, my wife, mother, brother and sister in a small tent suffering from the cold weather. I cannot risk taking them back and exposing their lives to danger, let alone that our house in Sa’ada has been destroyed.”

Dozens of families, like Ahmad’s, want to return home but the escalating violence between Houthis and pro-government tribes, which erupted again without warning, is forcing the internally displaced people (IDPs) from Sa’ada to stay in the camps.

The recent conflict began on Nov. 15, paused for five days over Eid, and resumed on Nov. 20. More than 12 armed Houthis were killed before Eid.

UNHCR’s public information assistant, Jamal Al-Najjar, told the Yemen Times that the clashes, which started just three days before Eid, prevented dozens of IDPs from returning to their homes. UNHCR has not had access to other IDPs living in tents in Qataber and Manbah, near the Saudi border.

“The intermittent clashes between the tribes and the Houthis have stopped many IDPs from returning home,” said Al-Najjar. “Only 20,000 IDPs out of 300,000 went back.” He added that other tribes have mediated between the Houthis and the Galga tribe to stop the clashes at least during Eid.

“This is an alarming escalation. UNHCR adds its voice to that of the local mediation committee in calling for calm and protection of the civilian population,” said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in a press conference in Geneva. “We remain very concerned about the lack of access and the humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate.”

Ahmad Ali is currently one of 280,000 displaced people. He has been displaced for nearly a year after leaving his house during the last Sa’ada war, which started in Aug. 2009 and ended in Feb. 2010. Although he receives aid and food in the camp, he dreams of the day he can return back home with his family, where his children can go to school and his family can live peacefully.

Car bomb attack

In a separate incident in the northern governorate of Al-Jawf, a car bomb struck a religious procession of Shiites, killing at least 15 people on Wednesday. A car packed with explosives detonated alongside a crowd of Houthis, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told AFP.

Abdulsalam said the attack targeted Houthis who were preparing to mark Al-Ghadeer, the day on which Shiites commemorate Ali Bin Abi Taleb, a key figure of the Shiite Houthi faith, as supposed successor to the Prophet Mohammed in ruling the Islamic Umma.

The anniversary has long been a source of conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A tribal leader told AFP that the bombing was the work of Sunni militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

“A suicide bomber driving a four-wheel drive vehicle blew himself up alongside the procession,” the tribal chief told AFP. “Among the dead was the provincial tribal chief Hussein bin Ahmed bin Hadhban and his son.”

Other tribal sources warned that the death toll was likely to rise. One told AFP “it could reach 30.”

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