Snipers in besieged northern town
“The Houthis are now deploying snipers on the mountains surrounding the Salafi school and they prevent the supply of food and medicine,” a student told the Yemen Times.
On Wednesday morning, a student was shot in the back by a Houthi sniper while washing his clothes, according to a source from the Dar Al-Hadeeth School.
Tensions between the two sides commenced one month ago, after a statement by Imam Yahya Al-Hajoori, the principal of the school, was leaked to the Houthis in which he commended Brigadier General Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, the president’s nephew and chief commander of Yemen’s security forces. In the letter, Al-Hajoori also commended Saudi Arabia for fighting Houthis in his area.
The leaked letter led the Houthis to blockade the Sunni school in Damaj. Two Salafi students have been killed and ten others injured since the tension surfaced over one month ago.
“The JMP and defected General Al-Ahmar are working on building this tension, and the Houthis are just tools to take revenge against the Salafists for their positions,” one student said.
Local tribal figures have made several efforts to resolve the situation, but all of them came to a dead-end after each side blamed the other for breaching the ceasefire.
A student of the Salafi School said that the Houthis have prevented the Red Cross Society and other humanitarian organizations from entering the area.
“Some households spend two days without food and other families have gone from three meals a day to one meal a day,” a local citizen said.
“The Houthis are demanding that we surrender our arms and evacuate our military positions, particularly the Al-Baraqa Mountain which overlooks the school,” a student of Dar Al-Hadeeth School told the Yemen Times.
Around 1,500 Salafi members met on Wednesday in Al-Buqa’ in Eastern Sa’ada to discuss the situation and urge tribesmen to take action to end the blockade.
Mohamed Abd Al-Sallam, a spokesperson for the Houthis, told the Yemen Times that “the area is open for anyone to leave, and if anyone is starving, he or she should get out instead of staying inside the area.”
The threat is that the conflict could develop further, into a nationwide sectarian war. Around 69 Salafi students from Damaj were killed in clashes with the Shiite Houthis during the fifth round of war between the Yemeni army and Houthis in 2009.