'Heavy losses' in Yemen fighting

At least 17 rebels killed as fighting threatens to cause a humanitarian crisis.

    The military has been battling Houthi fighters in the north of Yemen since 2004 [AFP/HO/YEMENI ARMY]

    The conflict between the Houthi fighters, who belong to the Shia Zaidi sect, and government forces first broke out in 2004, but last month the fighting intensified as the group pushed to topple the government.

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    Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the al-Mazraq refugee camp, said that there was heavy fighting little more than 10 miles away from his position near the border with Saudi Arabia.

    Thousands of people have fled the fighting and aid groups have warned of a possible humanitarian crisis in the remote region.  

    "They are asking the government and international aid agencies for more support - medical assistance, drinking water, tents and food," Ahelbarra reported.

    "There are huge expectations that the international community and the Yemeni government will step up efforts to provide them urgently with the needs they want.

    "They are lacking all the basic needs that. These people have been stranded not only in these camps. Some of them decided to go to Saudi Arabia to seek shelter, but they were kicked out. Then they had to come back to this mountainous area.

    The Yemeni government is concerned that the battle could become a prolonged conflict forcing it to seek international assistance for the internally displaced people.

    UN agencies estimate the conflict has added up to 100,000 people to those previously left homeless
    A brief ceasefire was agreed on Friday after aid agencies asked for access to the displaced, but fighting resumed just four hours later.

    Laure Chedrawi, the public information officer for the UN refugees agency (UNHCR), told Al Jazeera on Thursday that it was currently impossible to reach the displaced from Yemeni territory.

    "UNHCR is attempting a cross-border operation from inside Saudi Arabia" she said.

    "The stockpiles of non-food items are ready on the Saudi side of the border to be dispatched to Saada as soon as the green lights are given by both the Yemeni government and the Saudi government."

    UN agencies estimate the conflict has added another 50,000 to 100,000 people to those previously left homeless by earlier fighting in one of the poorest Arab countries.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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