Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Houthi gunmen renewed their shelling of Dammaj in Yemen’s northern Saada province on Tuesday, killing at least 20 local residents, local sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat.
The heavy shelling in the predominately Salafist governorate, which included the use of tanks, resulted in the deaths of people from both sides of the conflict, as well as property damage.
The source informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this renewal of violence means the breakdown of all ceasefire negotiations between the two parties.
Meanwhile, the presidential committee and the parliamentary fact-finding commission tasked with resolving the conflict in Dammaj continued their efforts to contain the situation and maintain the fragile ceasefire in the region.
For his part, a Salafist spokesman claimed that the Shi’ite Houthi militiamen are planning to storm Dammaj within the next 48 hours and “cleanse” it of its Sunni inhabitants, calling on government authorities to intervene quickly to prevent a “massacre.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, sources in Dammaj informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthi gunmen had forcibly prevented members of the presidential and parliamentary committees from entering the besieged town.
The Red Cross was unable to enter Dammaj to evacuate the wounded for treatment following the latest round of shelling.
Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross was able to evacuate 40 people wounded in recent clashes following mediation by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar.
In another development, three Al-Qaeda suspects were killed in a drone strike in Hadramaut Province in southeast Yemen on Tuesday.
According to eyewitnesses, a US drone targeted a car that was carrying the three suspects in the city of Mukalla, an Al-Qaeda stronghold that has seen a series of assassinations of Yemeni security and intelligence officers.
The drone attack came less than 24 hours after eight Yemeni troops were killed by unknown gunmen believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda in Shabwa Province on Tuesday.
Last week, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula pledged to intervene in the Dammaj conflict to protect the Salafists and “exact revenge” against the Houthis. The group’s alleged leader, Sheikh Harith Al-Nadhari, appeared in an online video accusing the Houthis of committing “gruesome crimes” and pledging “complete solidarity” with Dammaj’s Salafist community.
“We say to them: your injury is our injury, your tragedy is our tragedy, and your enemy is our enemy,” he added.