The Yemeni authorities have declared a state of emergency throughout Saada province and imposed an evening curfew on Saada city and surrounding towns, the German Press Agency (dpa) reports.
Casualties in the government’s new “iron fist” offensive are unclear but dpa and Associated Press both cite the Houthi rebels as saying that 15 civilians were killed when a fighter jet struck a marketplace in Haidan town. A number of rebel fighters are reported dead in other areas.
Killing aside, the conflict is plainly having a severe effect on civilian life in the area. The dpa report continues:
The UN refugee agency official in northern Yemen, Claire Bourgeois, said the organisation is looking to assist at least 1,500 families displaced in the area of Malahidh, where some of the worst fighting took place Wednesday.
"We fear the numbers could be much higher, many people fled their homes in an emergency, so we are assuming they didn't take necessities with them," she said.
Another UN official, Lina al-Mujahed, said more than 230 families have arrived in the provincial capital after traveling hundreds of kilometers from different parts of Saada. Al-Mujahed said food and tents were already distributed to half of them.
The ruling party’s website, Almotamar, says the Houthi rebels currently control about 63 schools in Haidan area and other schools in other areas of Katif, al-Baqa, Safin and al-Safraa, and have kidnapped a number of teachers and plundered the schools’ contents. It quotes Mohammed al-Shamiri, director-general of education in Saada province:
They expelled students and changed them into camps for destruction and aggression on army and security men as well as the citizens. They used them for destroying thoughts [of] the youth through holding gatherings instigating against the state and the republican system.
The sabotage elements have tried to force some teachers to teach certain subjects and force the students to attend those lectures. The students who refused that the elements would threaten their families and relatives and expelling them from their houses and areas to other areas under pretext of being unwanted citizens.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 13 August 2009