Read this article in: عربي
YEMEN: Rebel leader calls for international aid
Saada residents receiving WFP food assistance
SANAA, 6 May 2008 (IRIN) - The leader of Shia rebels in the northern governorate of Saada, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, has called on aid agencies and the UN to focus their efforts on areas that have witnessed fierce clashes between his supporters and government troops over the past few days. [Read this report in Arabic]
Al-Houthi told IRIN on 5 May the army had blockaded certain areas, preventing food supplies from getting through.
"For more than a week, the army has besieged Al-Takrit and Haidan districts. Food supplies are not being allowed to enter these areas and aid agencies are ignoring them... The authorities will be responsible for any famine that occurs as a result. Aid agencies have to show their kindness towards war-affected citizens," he said.
The blockade was being used to pressure citizens to support government forces, he said.
Dozens on both sides have been killed in the fighting over the past few days, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Al-Houthi said the past four days had seen some fierce clashes: "The army attacked Haidan and Munabeh districts using tanks, artillery and mortars. In other districts there was only tension. Now there is relative calm," he said.
He said the army had also attacked rebel checkpoints. Rashad al-Masri, the governor of Saada Governorate, told the media recently that al-Houthi supporters had escalated the conflict.
Recent major attacks
Sixteen people were killed and 45 wounded in a motorcycle bomb attack outside Bin Salman mosque in Saada city on 2 May. The bomb exploded as worshippers were emerging from the mosque after Friday prayers. Security authorities said the attack was planned by the rebels, an accusation rejected by al-Houthi.
Security authorities said seven soldiers were killed and another 17 injured in a rebel ambush in Majz District on 29 April.
Al-Houthi, meanwhile, has accused the government of not implementing the Qatari-brokered peace agreement signed in February by the two sides.
"They [the authorities] have not ceased fire or released prisoners, and life has not returned to normal. The army has not even vacated our villages, markets, farms and schools. We have complied 80 percent with the peace agreement. Our supporters have come down from 54 sites on the mountains, handed over main routes to the authorities and released prisoners of war," he said.
A new Yemeni presidential committee set up in late April to supervise the peace agreement arrived in Saada City on 4 May and held talks with the Qatari delegation which has also returned to the region in an attempt to end the fighting. IDPs
"New displacements have taken place due to the latest fighting. Despite a peace agreement signed in February 2008, the situation remains volatile," the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) office in Yemen said, adding that new internally displaced persons (IDPs), were continuing to arrive in Saada city, including over 200 families in the past week.
Earlier, on 22 April, it had appealed for nearly US$3 million to assist 77,000 IDPs in Saada Governorate, one of the results of the stop-go conflict which dates back to 2004.