Militias say political opponents are ‘safe’ as fighting halts in Sanaa

Militias say political opponents are ‘safe’ as fighting halts in Sanaa
Houthi followers rally in Sanaa on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 05 December 2017

Militias say political opponents are ‘safe’ as fighting halts in Sanaa

Militias say political opponents are ‘safe’ as fighting halts in Sanaa

SANAA/GENEVA: Yemen’s Houthi militias rallied their supporters in the capital Tuesday, pledging that backers of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh were safe despite his death at the hands of the insurgents.
Thousands of Yemenis gathered near Sanaa International Airport shouting “Sanaa is free and the state still stands!” and “Yemenis are one!,” as militia chiefs addressed the crowd, many of whom waved the national flag.
Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, who heads the terrorists’ revolutionary council, told the crowd the Houthis had been left with no choice but to “confront” their former ally but were now “ensuring the safety” of members of his General People’s Congress party.
“They are being treated in hospitals and no one is looking to eliminate them,” Houthi said.
Tuesday’s rally struck a decidedly conciliatory tone after days of intense clashes between the Houthis and Saleh supporters left residents fearing their neighborhoods had become a new front in the Yemen war.
Sanaa was quiet on Tuesday after five days of fighting, and UN and Red Cross flights have landed at the airport, the UN said on Tuesday.
Street battles in the capital had stopped despite 25 airstrikes overnight, UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said.
The funeral of Saleh was expected later on Tuesday.
His family’s allies have battled the Houthis since last week, a dramatic turn in a conflict that had been largely stalemated for much of the past three years.
The UN says a food shortage caused by warring parties blocking supplies has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Millions of people could die in one of the worst famines of modern times.
“People are now emerging from their houses after five days being locked down basically as prisoners,” McGoldrick told a regular UN briefing, speaking by phone from Sanaa.
“They are now seeking safety, moving their families in case things erupt again and at the same time seeking medical treatment and trying to pacify very terrified kids who have endured five days of relentless shelling, shooting and ground fire and airstrikes.”
The airstrikes overnight struck government buildings, palaces and bridges, and people were now bracing themselves in case of more fighting or airstrikes, McGoldrick said, describing the situation as “very uncertain times.”
McGoldrick had no details of Saleh’s funeral later on Tuesday and did not know if it would coincide or clash with an event planned by the Houthis to celebrate his killing. He said there had been a report that there would be a ceremony around the main mosque, and the UN mission should avoid the area because of traffic.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that as many as 234 people have been killed in Sanaa street fighting this month between the Houthis and Saleh supporters.
The ICRC said on Tuesday that another 400 people have been wounded in the clashes, which first erupted last week.
It’s not clear how many civilians are among the dead.