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Humanitarian Agencies Working to Deliver Aid to Yemen Refugees


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Fighting continues in the northern Yemeni province of Saada, between Zaidi shi'ite rebels and the government, as humanitarian agencies race to deliver aid to thousands of displaced refugees.

The exact scope of fighting between Yemeni government forces and Zaidi shi'ite rebels in the northern region of Saada remains unclear, despite unconfirmed reports that clashes have intensified in the past 24 hours.

Al Arabiya TV reports government forces claim to have killed 25 rebels loyal to rebel leader Abdel-Malek al Houthi, in the latest round of fighting.

Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh reportedly told Yemeni Air Force officers at an airbase in the capital, Sanaa, that he was "committed to a military solution to the conflict."

Rebel leader Houthi declared, Saturday, that he was willing to participate in negotiations to end the conflict, which has gone on sporadically since 2004.

Yemeni opposition parties put forward a blue-print for a settlement, last month. Attempts by Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, along with a diplomatic push by both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, appear to have encountered resistance, due to the stubborn, ongoing fighting.

As the warring parties continue to do battle, humanitarian groups are frantically working to bring relief to thousands of refugees from the conflict.

UNHCR spokesman Andrew Knight says an aid convoy that was blocked at the Saudi border, late Saturday, has entered Yemen:

"I have just had an update from the field,"said Knight. "The humanitarian assistance and aid has been transferred from the trucks in Saudi Arabia to our implementing partners' trucks. From there, they are being taken to our warehouse in the north of Yemen and distribution will be going ahead, tomorrow [Monday]."

Knight also complains that the UNHCR is "$2.6-million short" of the $5 million it needs to organize management of five refugee camps, including tents and other assistance.

Meanwhile, Rabab al-Rifai of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sanaa, says her group and the Yemeni Red Crescent have succeeded in delivering some aid to refugees in the past several days.

"We have a team in Saada governorate-in Saada City to be more specific," she said. "The International Committee of the Red Cross has been present in Saada since 2004. We are working in close cooperation with the Yemeni Red Crescent society. In Saada city, alone, we have been able to assist more than 10,000 people, including people who are in three IDP camps. And the rest of the governorate, for instance, two days ago we managed to deliver some tents to Bakhum area, which is at the border with Saudi Arabia," she added, "so, Yemeni Red Crescent workers were able to distribute tents and there are still more tents on the way to cover the needsof some 10,000 people."

Al-Rifai adds the ICRC has counted at least 30,000 internally displaced people. Some U.N. figures put the refugee count much higher, at nearly 150,000 people.

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