Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

The Saudi-led Arab coalition and Houthi militia last month agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah, above, during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

  • Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day
  • UN officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid

HODEIDAH: Clashes erupted between Houthi militia and government forces in Yemen’s flashpoint port city of Hodeidah on Saturday, dealing a new blow to a fragile truce, an AFP correspondent reported.
Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day, the correspondent said.
The Houthi-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in the Yemeni conflict after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
But last month the warring parties agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.
The United Nations has said the truce has largely held since it came into force on December 18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of the Houthis and government forces.
The Houthis control most of Hodeidah while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.
The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
UN aid officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid and nearly 10 million are just one step away from famine.
UN aid coordinator Lise Grande visited Hodeidah on Friday and met local officials, the head of Yemen’s National Authority for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jaber Al-Razahi, said.
“The reason for the visit of UN humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande to Hodeidah is to see the humanitarian situation ... and ensure the arrival of aid through the port,” Al-Razahi said.


Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

Updated 22 January 2019
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Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

  • The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule
  • Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar to fend off tear gas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital’s twin city Omdurman on Tuesday protesting against the fatal wounding of a demonstrator last week, witnesses said.

The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in both Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against the three-decade rule of President Omar Bashir.

Bashir has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities.

Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.

The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.

The SPA has taken the lead in organizing the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.

Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19, 2018.

The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.

The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency since the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues, has stoked spiraling inflation and widespread shortages.

Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.

But his efforts to blame the US for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.

Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.

Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces.

“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.

They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.

They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime.”