Thousands of civilians flee north Yemen battle

2014-07-08 20:42
Asylum seekers sit along with their children on the sidewalk in Sana’a, Yemen. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

Asylum seekers sit along with their children on the sidewalk in Sana’a, Yemen. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

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Sana'a -Around 10 000 families have fled the northern city of Amran in three days to escape an intensified battle between the army and Shi'ite rebels, the Yemeni Red Crescent said on Tuesday.

Launching a "call for help", the organisation said 5 000 more families were trapped by fighting inside the city.

Amran, 50km north of the capital Sanaa, is home to an estimated 120 000 inhabitants.

It has been the scene of fighting between the Huthis - also known as Ansarullah - troops and tribes on both sides since February as the Shiite rebels advanced from their mountain strongholds towards Sana'a.

"The bodies of 60 people killed, mostly civilians and soldiers, have been brought to the hospital since Saturday," said a medic at Amran's main hospital.

"Around 180 wounded, many of them civilians, were also admitted," the source told AFP, which could not immediately compile a full toll.

Army reinforcements sent to Amran on Sunday were locked in fierce clashes with Shi'ite rebels in Dharawan, 15km from Sanaa, and in and around the city itself, military sources said.

Early on Tuesday, Yemeni fighter jets bombed Amran's Warak neighbourhood, hours after it was seized by rebels.

Huthis have been battling the central government for years from their Saada heartland, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after a year-long uprising.

Clashes erupted anew last month in the north, ending an 11-day truce agreed after mediation backed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar.

The rebels say a federalisation plan agreed in February after national talks as part of a political transition would divide Yemen into rich and poor regions.

They seized areas of Amran province in fighting with tribes in February that killed more than 150 people.


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