Yemen

Yemen says kills 11 rebels,video shows captured troops

  • Military spokesman says government seizes rebel hideouts

- Video footage shows soldiers surrendering; tank on fire

SANAA, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Yemen said on Thursday it had killed 11 rebels in fighting in the north of the country, while the rebels posted footage on the Internet that appeared to show dozens of captured government troops.

Last month fresh fighting erupted in the mountainous Saada region bordering Saudi Arabia between Zaydi Shi'ite Muslims and government forces.

On Wednesday, the rebels warned of a "long war" after the government rejected a truce offer. [ID:nLR537448] The conflict first broke out in 2004.

A military spokesman said government forces had taken control of five rebel hideouts and "destroyed a number of locations where the rebels and terrorists were".

The rebels, led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, published footage on their website that showed dozens of what they said were captured government troops being escorted out of the Maran area. Other footage showed soldiers surrendering and a tank on fire.

Information about the conduct of the war has been hard to verify since northern provinces have been closed to media.

WOMEN, CHILDREN HIT HARDEST

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating and fighting is hampering aid operations in parts of north Yemen, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

The ICRC was working "around the clock" with the Yemen Red Crescent Society to meet the most urgent needs of more than 25,000 people in Saada and a nearby province who have fled the conflict, it said in a statement on Thursday.

"The dire humanitarian situation is hitting women and children especially hard," said Daniel Gagnon of the ICRC's team in Saada.

"What the people need most is clean water, food and shelter," he said. "With commercial traffic paralysed because of the fighting, people find it difficult to get supplies."

More than 100,000 people, many of them children, have fled their homes during the surge in fighting, a U.N. agency said last month. [ID:nN2184004]

The World Food Programme said on Tuesday it had managed to distribute food aid to only 10,000 in Hajjah and Saada provinces in August, compared to 95,000in July, due to limited access.

The United Nations children's organisation UNICEF launched an appeal on Wednesday for $6.1 million.

"Nearly half of the funding will help provide for the immediate water, sanitation and hygiene needs of the displaced population and the host communities," it said in a statement.

The UNICEF appeal was part of inter-agency U.N. appeal of $23.5 launched in Geneva to help Yemen.

The rebels accuse Saudi Arabia of backing the government and the government sees an Iranian hand behind the rebels.

The government says the rebels want to restore a Shi'ite state overthrown in the 1960s and this week summoned the Iranian ambassador over Iranian media coverage of the fighting.

The rebels say they want more autonomy, including Zaydi schools in their area. They oppose the spread of Saudi-influenced Sunni fundamentalism and accuse the government of indiscriminate bombing of villages.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa and by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; writing by Andrew Hammond and Tamara Walid; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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