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Conflict in Yemen Intensifies As More People Flee


The International Committee of the Red Cross reports conditions are continuing to deteriorate in northern Yemen where fighting between the government and al-Houthi rebels has been raging for the past five months. A Red Cross official tells VOA large numbers of civilians continue to flee the conflict zone in search of safety.

The Red Cross says civilians trapped in conflict in northern Yemen are finding it hard just to survive. It says many people leave their homes and their belongings behind in a desperate attempt to find safety.

ICRC spokesman, Marcel Izard, tells VOA in just the past two days about 2,000 new people have fled to Saada city. He says such a large exodus indicates a lot of fighting is going on.

"You have some people who are fleeing, obviously who are coming now into these huge camps that are centered in Saada city and outside the city and other places as well. And, you have other people who are too scared to flee because fighting is really taking place very close to the villages and who do not know what will happen to them if they flee," said Izard.

Fighting between the government and al-Houthi rebels has been going on since 2004. This latest wave of fighting erupted in August. Since then, aid agencies have been urgently appealing to the international community for support in assisting the civilians caught in the middle. But, the response has been very poor.

Since the recent aborted terrorist attack on a Delta airliner, worldwide attention has focused on Yemen because of the alleged al-Qaida connection.

While this issue is separate from the fighting in northern Yemen, Izard says he hopes some of this attention will be paid to that conflict. He notes people are in desperate need of assistance. They lack water, food and other essentials.

He says all of northern Yemen is a combat zone. He says the fighting keeps shifting from one place to another adding to the uncertainties and instability in the region.

"People have been displaced four, five times in a row. People cannot even resettle in an area because once they are in one camp in one area, it might happen to them that fighting reaches this area as well and suddenly they have to move again, which is one of the solutions," he said. "People see what they are facing and they are on the constant move and they do not really feel safe anywhere where they are. And, now it is winter. Even in Yemen it is wintertime. It is cold in the nighttime, so it is also a very difficult time for them."

The International Committee of the Red Cross says dozens of civilians reportedly have been killed or injured in attacks in several parts of Saada governorate. It says it has not been able to verify this information because of lack of access to the areas.

Since mid-August, the Red Cross says at least 150,000 people have been affected by the armed conflict. It says around half of them are internally displaced.