Houthis' violence triggers new wave of displacement

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Yemeni children stand outside a tent at a makeshift displacement camp in the Nahm region, west of Marib city, on May 8th, 2016. [Abdullah al-Qadry/AFP]

Yemeni children stand outside a tent at a makeshift displacement camp in the Nahm region, west of Marib city, on May 8th, 2016. [Abdullah al-Qadry/AFP]

The Iran-backed Houthis' recent attacks on al-Khaneq displacement camp in Sanaa province's Nahm district and a camp in Marib's Majzar district have led to the further displacement of 1,850 families, Yemeni officials said.

The Houthis (Ansarallah) shelled the camps on Sunday (January 26th) amid clashes with Yemeni forces on the Nahm, Sirwah and al-Jawf fronts that erupted last week.

Many families who fled to the Marib city area "are staying out in the open and lack the most basic necessities", 7th Military District spokesman Col. Abdullah al-Shandaqi told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthis' targeting of displacement camps has compounded the suffering of civilians, he said, as well as increased the burden on the legitimate government and on humanitarian relief organisations.

"A few of these families sought refuge with relatives in the city of Marib, but the majority are staying out in the open and waiting for relief assistance under winter season conditions that are exacerbating their suffering," al-Shandaqi said.

Since fighting escalated on January 19th in Marib, Sanaa and al-Jawf provinces, 1,345 newly displaced households (9,415 individuals) have been identified, the UN population fund (UNFPA) reported January 30th.

The new wave of displacement is ongoing, it said, as fighting continues.

The Sanaa Coalition for Relief and Development on January 28th reported that more than 1,350 displaced families in al-Khaneq camp had been forced to move to camps in the vicinity of Marib city to escape Houthi shelling.

A further 500 families have been displaced from villages and camps in Majzar district of north-east Marib by Houthi artillery shelling, it said.

In a statement carried by Yemeni media outlets, the Arab coalition appealed to local and international organisations to aid the newly displaced.

Hundreds of families are sleeping on the ground inside the displacement camps because they do not have access to tents, it said.

Sanaa province's local authority condemned the Houthis for their shelling of areas near the front lines, including al-Khaneq, saying the camp had been attacked even though it is more than 50 kilometres from the flashpoint areas.

The authority called on aid organisations to quickly assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) in those areas.

Displacement crisis worsens

The displacement crisis is worsening in all areas, Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

"Every time we say conditions are becoming conducive for the return of IDPs to their cities and villages, we see new waves of displacement," he said.

The displaced population must contend with harsh living conditions, he said, and lack even the most basic necessities and services.

The situation in the areas where IDPs have taken refuge calls for full force intervention by international humanitarian organisations to facilitate the delivery of relief aid and to set up new camps away from the fighting, he said.

The Ministry of Human Rights is concerned with the Houthis' "deliberate targeting of residential areas" in their military operations, Abdul Hafeez said.

"The Iran-backed Houthis use civilians as human shields and sometimes use these residential areas as launch pads for their attacks," he added.

Families displaced from al-Khaneq and Majzar camps and areas near the fighting are now in danger as they lack the most basic necessities and the winter season is in full force, economist Abdul Aziz Thabet told Al-Mashareq.

He called on humanitarian relief organisations and on the authorities in Marib and Sanaa to act quickly and provide relief to the IDPs until the relief provided by international organisations can reach them.

Thabet expressed astonishment that the Houthis would target these camps, and appealed to the UN to act quickly to help the displaced and to exert pressure on the Houthis to stop them from targeting civilians.

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