Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saudi Arabia King Calls For A Stable Yemen

Written by: Arab News
September 20, 2011
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah received Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh at his palace on Monday and emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to a stable, secure and unified Yemen.
“During the meeting Saleh commended Saudi Arabia’s efforts to help Yemen overcome the present crisis, realizing the higher national interests of the Yemeni people,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
The meeting was the first since Saleh came to Saudi Arabia for treatment after being wounded in an attack on his Sanaa compound in June. Saleh thanked the king for providing medical treatment for him and top Yemeni officials at Saudi hospitals.
“King Abdullah reiterated Saudi Arabia’s stand in support for a stable, secure, and unified Yemen,” the SPA said, adding that the king hoped the Yemeni people would overcome the crisis.
Saudi Arabia is one of the signatories to a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative that aims for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen.
In the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, soldiers opposed to Saleh exchanged heavy gunfire with government troops on Monday, as violence spiraled during the deadliest crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations since they began eight months ago.
Yemeni security forces, including snipers, killed 28 people in the city on Monday, raising the death toll to 54 over two days.
“Help me, oh my God look at this slaughter!” said a man carrying the bloodied body of his small child, killed by gunfire. “We were just in the car … I stepped out to get some food and left my two boys in the car. I heard the older one scream. My little one was shot straight through the head.”
Witnesses said government forces were trading heavy rifle and missile fire with troops loyal to Gen. Ali Mohsen, who defected to the protesters some months ago.
An escalation from clashes around protests into outright military confrontation in Sanaa has been a major concern for many in Yemen, who fear this will make it even harder to reach a political settlement under which Saleh would hand over power.
“This is only going to get worse,” one man shouted as he fled a new protest camp, staked out by protesters on Sunday night and attacked by snipers on Monday. Troops loyal to Mohsen jumped onto trucks and sped toward the location from where heavy crackling of gunfire could be heard.
“We will come back to protest later. I am afraid, but this is worth dying for,” the man said. He was among hundreds rushing back to the relative safety of protesters’ original sit-in area, dubbed Change Square, where they have camped out for eight months to demand an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.
Diplomats and Yemeni politicians scrambled to speed up a long-stalled transition plan under which Saleh would hand over power
A source in Yemen’s political opposition said they were meeting with government officials and diplomats to try and push through a deal. UN mediator Jamal bin Omar and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani arrived in Sanaa on Monday and were expected to join the talks.
Al-Zayani was expected to push for a signing of the GCC-brokered transition plan which Saleh thrice backed out of at the last minute. “There’s a possibility of trying to push through the Gulf plan for signing this week,” he said.
Medics said 187 protesters were wounded on Monday after a dramatic escalation in violence which began with a huge anti-government march on Sunday. At least 400 protesters and police have died since the revolt began eight months ago.
Protesters had been planning to ratchet up demonstrations this week. They said they expected a spike in bloodshed as they pushed their marches into areas surrounded by government troops in a bid to re-energize a languishing protest movement.
“We have known that this regime would kill its citizens,” said Manea Al-Mattari, from the Organization Council for the Youth Revolution. “But we know we have to do this, let our blood spill so the world notices how much Yemenis want their freedom.”

Red Crescent teams assaulted in Yemen: ICRC

The ICRC says that some Red Crescent teams have been threatened ans assaulted in one of Sanaa's main hospitals

AFP , Tuesday 20 Sep 2011

The international Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday that some Red Crescent teams have been threatened and assaulted in Yemen and that violent confrontations were reportedly taking place in one of Sanaa's main hospitals.

"The ICRC delegation is receiving very worrying reports of armed confrontations taking place in Al-Gomhori Hospital and placing many innocent lives at risk," said Valerie Petitpierre, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross' delegation in Yemen.

An ICRC spokesman said that the relief agency has "received calls and allegations from a lot of people who live around the hospital or who have been in the hospital," claiming there were confrontations there.

In addition, "over the past three days, Yemen Red Crescent Society emergency response teams have been threatened and assaulted," said Petitpierre.

"In some cases they have had equipment confiscated, and there have also been incidents in which they were denied access to people in need of first aid," she added.

The ICRC urged all parties in the conflict to "respect and facilitate" the efforts of the Red Cross to help those in need.

"Anyone injured or wounded must be able to receive life-saving health care without undue delay," said Petitpierre.

"Medical staff, vehicles and facilities must be respected and protected," she stressed.

Gunfire and shelling rocked Sanaa for the third straight day on Tuesday as the toll from the worst outbreak of violence in Yemen's capital in months spiralled to 60 dead with hundreds wounded

Yemen's capital relatively calm after cease-fire

AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press, September 20, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Witnesses and security officials say the Yemeni capital is mostly calm after a cease-fire negotiated by the country's vice president and several Western ambassadors came took effect.

The cease-fire came into force at 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The city has since been calm, with only sporadic gunfire.

The cease-fire came on the third day of deadly violence between opponents of the Yemeni regime and forces loyal to its embattled president. At least 60 people have been killed, most of them protesters.

The truce was negotiated by Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and several foreign envoys, including the U.S. and British ambassadors in Sanaa, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Yemen street battles escalate, killing 9 people

By AHMED AL-HAJ Associated Press September 20, 2011
Rapidly escalating street battles between opponents of Yemen’s regime and forces loyal to its embattled president spread to the home districts of senior government figures and other highly sensitive areas of the capital on Tuesday. A third day of fighting, including a mortar attack on unarmed protesters, killed nine people, medical officials said.
The latest deaths took to at least 60 the number of people killed since Sunday, as anti-regime protesters step up their campaign to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a key military unit supporting them is drawn deeper into the fighting. Saleh’s forces have hit back with attacks by rooftop snipers and shelling of protest encampments.
In Geneva, the United Nations said Tuesday that four children were killed by live ammunition during the unrest on Sunday and Monday. Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for the U.N. children’s’ fund, also said that 18 minors were injured.
Mercado told reporters in Geneva that the casualties were confirmed by UNICEF’s local partners in Yemen.
Yemen’s turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the Arab world set off largely peaceful protests in the deeply impoverished and unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula that is also home to an al-Qaida offshoot blamed for several nearly successful attempts to attack the United States.
The government has responded with a heavy crackdown.
President Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after a June attack on his Sanaa compound and has not returned to Yemen, but has resisted calls to resign.
After the dawn Muslim prayer on Tuesday, Saleh’s forces lobbed mortar shells at Change Square, a plaza at the heart of the city where protesters have held a sit-in since the uprising began in February.
Medical officials said the shelling killed three protesters, three rebel soldiers and a bystander.
Clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern city of Taiz left two more people dead, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information.
Elsewhere in the capital, clashes between protesters and security forces erupted in several districts, with gunfire ringing out in areas close to Saleh’s residence and the office of his son and one-time heir apparent, Ahmed, commander of the elite loyalist Republican Guards and Special Forces.
In the upscale district of Hadah, home to senior government officials as well as tribal leaders opposed to Saleh, gunbattles were raging between forces loyal to the president’s son and bands of tribal fighters opposed to the regime.
The violence is forcing more of the capital’s residents to flee to the relative safety of rural Yemen. Scores of pickup trucks and sedans loaded with families and personal belongings could be seen headed out in early Tuesday morning after a night in which loud explosions repeatedly shook the city.
Most of those staying put in the capital are not leaving their homes for fear of snipers or getting caught up in gunfights, leaving the city looking increasingly deserted on Tuesday morning, with most stores shuttered.