Houthis partially lift Damaj blockade
Around 7,000 Salafi students, including women and children of Yemeni and foreign nationalities, live in Damaj and the area recently ran out of basic food items and medicine following the weeks-long blockade, according to a media and human rights team who visited the area.
The main Houthi security checkpoint out of Damaj, known as Khaneq, began allowing food aid, supplied by the Red Cross Society, into the area on Saturday. But a Salafi student told the Yemen Times accused the Houthis of only permitting two thirds of the aid and took the third for their own.
However, Mohamed Abd Al-Sallam, a spokesperson for the Houthis in Sa’ada, denied the allegations. “It is untrue that the Houthis took one third of the Red Cross Society’s food aid or confiscated any food,” he said. “And the road is open for anyone to go in or out.”
The accusation came after a statement by the Houthis on Saturday saying they had lifted the blockade and agreed a ceasefire. However, fighting has continued on both sides.
“Nobody can get in or get out,” the Salafi student said “so how are they [Houthis] saying that they lifted the blockade?”
The governor of Sa’ada has sent a copy of the Houthis’ statement to the Salafis in Damaj, but the Salafis have not yet responded.
A delegation of the Yemeni opposition National Council, formed on August 17th to lead the youth revolution, visited Sa’ada on Saturday and took a tour of the Damaj area. They have remained in Sa’ada, but have not yet released any report on the situation there.
The delegation includes Mussed Al-Radaee, general secretary of the Nasserite party as the head of the mission and MP Sakhr Al-Wajeeh.
A similar mission of anti-regime protesters from Sana’a’s Change Square also arrived in Damaj on Friday to assess the situation from both sides, but they have not revealed their findings yet.
The violence in Sa’ada between the Shiite-Houthis and the Sunni-Salafis broke out 50 days ago after the Houthis received a leaked letter, allegedly from a Salafi cleric in Damaj, urging the commander of Yemen’s security forces to fight the Houthis. The letter was denied by the cleric though he later called for Jihad [holy war] against the Houthis.
The Houthis, who took control of Sa’ada in March of this year, have gone through six rounds of war with the Yemeni army since 2004-2010. The Salafis were not involved in the fighting until the last round in 2009.
Both sides have been exchanging accusations that the other is inciting supporters to encourage sectarian conflict in Yemen.