Houthis ‘expelling Sanaa hospital patients to treat leaders and fighters’

Pro-government fighters stand on the barrel of a tank in an area where they fought against Houthi militants in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen. (Reuters)
Updated 17 August 2017
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Houthis ‘expelling Sanaa hospital patients to treat leaders and fighters’

JEDDAH: Houthi militants are expelling civilian patients from hospitals in Sanaa and other provinces, sources told Arab News.
The sick are being removed from their beds to make way for leaders of the so-called Houthi “popular committees” and their families, as well as injured militants coming back from the battlefield.
Sources in Yemen said Houthi militants used weapons to expel patients from all departments of the largest Yemeni armed forces hospitals in Sanaa and Dhamar. They also threatened to kill doctors and nurses if they tried to protest or prevent them from expelling the patients.
Sources also said that Houthi militias are stealing medicines destined for patients in order to sell them to pharmacies.
Local sources in Al-Bayda province said that forces loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh had robbed a medical center and forbade staff from offering the most basic services to patients and those in need.
Armed militants in Hajjah prevented local medical centers from receiving cholera patients, the sources said.
Leaders of the “popular committees” are doing this to pressure people in these areas to send their sons to the battlefield, it was claimed.
Meanwhile, an International Red Cross delegation to Marib province heard testimonies regarding human rights violations against civilians that were committed by Houthi militias and forces loyal to Saleh, Sabaa news agency reported Wednesday.
Testimonies were heard from the mothers and wives of detainees in Houthi prisons.
Houthi militias kidnapped their relatives from roads, markets and houses, and some died due to torture in prisons and detention centers, witnesses said.
The militias raided houses without any legal justification, and arrested men, children and women, according to the testimonies.
The militias terrified families, imposed compulsory taxes, conscripted children, blew up buildings and looted homes and stores, witnesses said.
Separately, Reuters reported that the central bank of Yemen floated the national currency, instructing banks to follow the market rate in a move aimed at shoring up a financial system battered by war.
A circular said the Aden bank had ditched the official rate of 250 riyals to the dollar in favor of “the exchange rate prevalent in the market... in accordance with the exchange rate lists issued by the central bank.”


One year after Daesh defeat, Syria’s Raqqa still in fear

Updated 47 min 7 sec ago
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One year after Daesh defeat, Syria’s Raqqa still in fear

  • While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins
  • ‘The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future’

RAQQA, Syria: A year after a US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters drove the Daesh group from the northern city of Raqqa, traumatized civilians still live in fear of near-daily bombings.
“Every day we wake up to the sound of an explosion,” said resident Khaled Al-Darwish.
“We’re scared to send our children to school ... there’s no security,” he added.
The militants’ brutal rule in Raqqa was brought to an end in October 2017 after a months-long ground offensive by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces supported by air strikes from a US-led coalition.
But despite manning roadblocks at every street corner, the SDF and the city’s newly created Internal Security Forces are struggling to stem infiltration by Daesh sleeper cells.
At Raqqa’s entrance, soldiers verify drivers’ identity papers and carefully sift through lorry cargoes.
Inside the city, there are regular foot patrols and armored vehicles sit at strategic points.
Women wearing the niqab are asked to show their faces to female security members before entering public buildings.
“If there wasn’t fear about a return of Daesh, there wouldn’t be this increased military presence,” said Darwish, a father of two, speaking near the infamous Paradise Square.
It was here that Daesh carried out decapitations and other brutal punishments, earning the intersection a new name — “the roundabout of hell.”
While the nightmare of militant rule may be gone, most of the city still lies in ruins and there are near daily attacks on checkpoints and military vehicles, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Although a series of stinging defeats have cut Daesh’s so-called caliphate down to desert hideouts, the militants still manage to hit beyond the patches of ground they overtly control.
Some Raqqa residents say the city’s new security forces lack the expertise to cope.
“We are exhausted. Every day we don’t know if we will die in a bomb explosion or if we will go home safe and sound,” said Abu Younes, sitting in his supermarket near a roundabout not far from Paradise Square.
“There is no security — (the new security forces) on the roadblocks are not qualified and there is a lot of negligence,” he complained.
“There are faults that enable Daesh to infiltrate the city easily and carry out attacks.”
But despite the continued attacks, a semblance of normal life has returned to the city.
Shops have reopened and traffic has returned to major roads — albeit choked by the impromptu checkpoints.
In a public garden, children climb up a multi-colored slide and onto dilapidated swings as their mothers sit on nearby benches carefully keeping watch.
They are set amidst an apocalyptic backdrop of twisted metal and splayed balconies — the remnants of buildings torn apart by US-led coalition air raids.
Nearby, Ahmed Al-Mohammed pauses as he listens to music on his phone. Like others, he does not hide his disquiet.
“We’re scared because of the presence of Daesh members in the city,” the 28-year-old said.
“The security forces need to tighten their grip.”
Ahmed Khalaf, who commands Raqqa’s Internal Security Forces, defended the work of his men and claimed successes against the militants.
He said patrols are highly organized and that a “joint operation cell” had recently been established with coalition forces to monitor the city’s security.
“Recently we arrested four (militants) — it was a cell that took part in attacks that terrorized the city,” said Khalaf, sporting plain green fatigues.
“We are continuing our investigation to uncover the other cells,” he added.
“Daesh’s goal is to destroy the country and to not let anyone live in safety,” he said.
Security and stability are what Najla Al-Ahmed wants most for her children.
“The nightmare of Daesh follows us everywhere — whenever we try to rest, explosions start up again,” said the 36-year-old, as she shopped with her young ones.
“The war has worn us out. Us and our children. It has destroyed our future,” she said.