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Displaced Yemenis killed in hostilities

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Displaced Yemenis killed in hostilities

30 October 2009

GENEVA - An unknown number of displaced Yemeni civilians have been killed and wounded during an exchange of fire between government troops and Al Houti forces in northern Yemen yesterday (29 October), according to UNHCR partners based in the area.

The victims belong to a group of some 500 internally displaced people (IDPs) who found shelter in Al Sam camp on the outskirts of Sa'ada city - one of the two remaining IDP camps in the troubled town. According to sketchy information from Sa'ada, a rocket or a mortar round landed in the camp, killing and wounding the IDPs, women and children among them. The security situation in that area has been deteriorating over the past few days.

UNHCR is shocked and saddened by the latest reports of the loss of life and indiscriminate targeting of Yemeni civilians forced to flee their homes. UNHCR calls upon all parties to the conflict to respect safety, security and human rights of the civilian population caught in the fighting.

As the conflict enters the fourth month with no signs of abating, the latest incident adds urgency to UNHCR's repeated appeals for a ceasefire and opening of humanitarian corridors in northern Yemen that would allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and enable humanitarian workers to deliver much needed aid to thousands of IDPs in this remote part of the country. This remains a top priority for UNHCR.

The humanitarian situation is most dramatic in the city of Sa'ada in northern Yemen, which has been cut off from the rest of the world. Access to Sa'ada has been extremely difficult since August. The city itself has been completely inaccessible for the past two weeks. Civilians, including some 35,000 IDPs, in and around Sa'ada remain trapped by the fighting and are unable to reach safer parts of the country. They live in dire conditions, facing extreme hardship as food and other commodities are running out and water is available only sporadically.

UNHCR also calls on Saudi authorities to offer safe shelter and assistance to vulnerable displaced Yemenis who may seek refuge across the border as they flee the heavy fighting in northern Yemen. UNHCR is poised to assist in these efforts.

An estimated 150,000 Yemenis have been affected by the fighting since 2004, including those displaced by the latest escalation.