Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Scorching Days

By Nasser Arrabyee 08/09/2009

The humanitarian situation is worsening in northern Yemen especially after pleas for even temporary cease-fire of the one-month old war went unheard this week.

The relief organizations are denied access to thousands of affected people due to the intensification of the battles between the rebels and the government troops.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the previous rounds of war which stared 2004, are estimated at 100,000. Now, the relief teams do not have access to those who are inside the Sa'ada province because the rebels are still blocking the road in Harf Sufyan area.

On September 2nd, the UN said in a flash appeal, it needs US$ 23.5 million to help about 150,000 Yemenis who were affected by the war, for the coming four months .

According to estimations of the relief organizations, about 50,000 more IDPs spilled to the three neighbouring provinces of Hajja, Amran, and Al Jawf in the last round of war which erupted on August 10th.

Naseem Ur-Rehman, Chief Communication and Advocacy at the Sana'a-based UNICEF office, estimated the IDPs in Amran province at 28,000 and those in Al Jawf at 8,000 and those in Hajja province he put them at 16,000.

The IDPs are living now in camps or scattered dwellings and also with relative families.

"The IDPs are strangers in their own lands. They look visibly horror-stricken, they have come from very long way, the frightening experience of the lingering war stays with them and can be seen in their eyes," Naseem told the Weekly in Sana'a after he came back from a 4-day visit to Al Mazarak IDPs camp in Harad district, Hajja province this week.

"The children are even more affected by the psycho-social trauma," Naseem added.

"The camp, which is about 20 km from the town of Harad, is in a vast open space with few shrubs where summer sun shines very strong."

A total of 320 families (2000 IDPs) are in this camp, and about 16,000 are in scattered dwellings and host families, said the UNICEF official.

It is not easy to deal with the conservative Yemeni families even in the war circumstances.

"Privacy and independence is a big issue with the Yemeni IDPs. They are not like the Somalis or Ethiopians. Every family wants a tent for their own and this is extremely difficult to achieve," Naseem complained.

Politically, the Yemeni government seems to still have internal, regional and international support to crush the armed rebellion.

In addition to the internal tribal and social support, the religious clerics announced their support for the government's military measures against the rebels.

"What's happening in Sa'ada is undoubtedly armed rebellion against the religious, national, and constitutional constants, and it is enhanced with strange ideas contravening Quran, Sunna and the unanimity of Ummah and it is hostile to companions of the prophet Mohammed," said the Yemeni clerics in a statement issued by the Yemeni Association of Clerics which includes clerics from all religious sects.

They demanded the government to put down the revolt and arrest the rebel leaders and bring them to justice. The normal people are no longer sympathetic with the rebels any more as they were in the previous rounds of war.

They no longer believe Al Houthi rebels allegations that they are defending themselves. A lot of people here are convinced that Al Houthis are expanding and achieving external agenda.

The rebels' leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi, on his part, described the clerics as "clerics of tyrant" on Monday .The unprecedented attack angered the clerics.

On the regional level, the Secretary General of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Abdul Rahman Al Atiyah said after a meeting with the President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a on September 4th, "The GCC are standing with the unity, security and stability of Yemen and that security of Yemen is a party of security of GCC."

The U.S. President Barack Obama said in a letter delivered by his counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to Saleh on Sunday September 6th that the United States will "stand beside Yemen, its unity, security and stability".

"Yemen's security is vital to the security of the United States and the region, and America will adopt an initiative to help Yemen face development challenges and support reform efforts," Obama's letter said.

The opposition parties are still in a grey position towards the war. The main opposition parties, known as the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs), called for a national dialogue to get out of the current crisis.

The JMPs, which includes Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, said in a 90-page document called the vision for national rescue, the individual rule is the essence of the crisis, which, they said, the current war in Sa'ada is only a part of that crisis.

Observers, however, say the political parties are ineffective in the tribal and conservative Yemen.

"The opposition parties want to rescue themselves from their crises yes, not to rescue the nation, because they are weaker than doing that, they can no longer do anything unfortunately," said Ahmed Al Sufi, a political analyst.

On his part, Sultan Al Barakani, assistant secretary general of the ruling party commented on opposition by saying, "The nation needs for rescue from those who speak about the rescue."

"No, it is a historic vision to rescue the nation and to get out from the crisis in Sa'ada and in the south," said Mohammed Al Sabri, leading figure of opposition JMPs.

The JMPs did not announce a clear-cut position towards the war in Sa'ada until now.

"They are waiting for the results of the war and then they will express their attitude," said Abdul Janadi, a political analyst.

On the military level, the army is preparing for a big operation, known now as the scorched earth operation. Military sources expected the operation to start during the few coming days

Meanwhile, the fighters and artillery continued to bomb the main strongholds of the rebels in Dhyan, Mutrah and Naqa’a. Based on intelligence information, the army implemented special operations over past few says with helicopters targeting leaders of the rebels and their supply movements. Six leaders were killed and two others were arrested of the most wanted list of the 55 which was announced by the government at the beginning of the war.

In reaction to the intelligence information leaked from their side, the rebels executed 10 children and six women from the families believed to be supporting with the government troops in Thuaib area, east of Sa’ada city last week.

Dozens of people are killed and injured daily from the both sides in back and forth battles in the three main fronts. The Al Houthi rebels have been trying to control the city of Sa'ada over the last two weeks.

Their supporters inside the city clash with the troops in some streets of the city which has population 60,000 persons.

The military expert say the war come to end if troops succeeded in Harf Sufyan where the rebels position in high mountains overlooking the road between Sana'a and Sa'ada.

The third front is in Al Malahaid, west of Sa'ada, where the rebels try to block the high way between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The troops in Harf Sufyan were enforced this week with three brigades from the highly qualified ones to carry out the expected big operation. “We are just waiting for the go ahead order now,” Military sources told the weekly on Tuesday from Harf Sufyan.

The Al Houthi rebels vowed to continue a long war of attrition after the government refused an offer from them for cease-fire last week. The government insisted the rebels must comply with the six conditions it set at the beginning of the war on August 10th.

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