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Yemen: the Saada conflict, second ceasefire failure

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Photographers during a protest in Manila condemning the killings of journalists in Maguindanao province . The Christian Science Monitor. ht tp://features.csmonitor.com/globaln ews/2009/11/24/philippines-massacre -the-story-behind-the-accused-ampat uan-clan/

The situation in the Saada Province remains considerably volatile. On the 20 September, this month’s second ceasefire failure has put an end to the relative calm obtained through the Eid al Fitr, marking the end of the Ramadan. In a recent press release, Oxfam warned of a «deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen», stressing the fact that «as the world stands by, immediate and lasting ceasefire and access to affected population is urgently needed» as well as «funding to provide aid for tens of thousands of civilians».

Renewed clashes between the Sunni Muslim government troops and the Huthi-led Shia rebels started this year on the 12 August, leading the conflict towards a worrying stalemate which still remains away from media headlines. Since 2004, a war has been raging on and off in Saada, Yemen’s northern governorate. The religious dimension has resurfaced in a region which has largely been ignored and marginalized since the 1962 revolution and the end to the imamate that Zaydi Hashemites ruled for over 1,000 years.

Many civilians have been killed and an estimated 150,000 are internally displaced (IDPs), for the second or the third time, within the region. The spreading of the conflict outside Yemen’s borders is not less worrying. According to the International Crisis Group, «as the government accuses the rebels of alignment with Iran and of loyalty to the Lebanese Hizbollah, Huthi leaders denounce its alignment with the U.S. They also claim Saudi interference, in particular funding of government and local tribes.»

The rebels’ brutal acts, looting and kidnapping as well as the competition over resources and   the growing involvement of tribal militias beside the rebels or government forces are contributing to the conflict’s inflammation. The ICRC’s Amacher said that civilian targets must be avoided and that «international humanitarian law stipulates that conflicting parties must differentiate between civilians and civilian property, on the one hand, and fighters and military targets, on the other.»

Sources

International Crisis Group, «Yemen: Defusing the Saada Time Bomb», http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6113&l=1
IRIN, «Yemen: conditions deterioratefor trapped Saada IDPs», 28 September 2009, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?Reportid=86272
Oxfam, «Humanitarian crisis in Yemen deepening as world stands by, warns Oxfam»,
http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/LSGZ-7W5D8M?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=yem

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