Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) evacuated 40 people wounded in recent clashes from Saada governorate on Thursday following mediation by United Nations envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar. Shi’ite Houthi and Salafist forces continue to contest Dammaj, a village in Yemen’s northern Saada region.
Sources in the town speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that a private plane managed to land in the region and evacuate around 40 wounded, including Salafist fighters and civilians.
The ICRC confirmed that it had evacuated 35 wounded, including 5 children, from Dammaj on Thursday, adding that it had evacuated over 100 casualties from the area since November 4.
The village of Dammaj and the surrounding environs have been claimed by Salafists in Yemen. Yemeni Houthi fighters have sought to retake the territory this month, subjecting Dammaj to a brutal bombardment many fear could incite wider sectarian strife in the country.
The source confirmed that the evacuation of the wounded was carried out by the ICRC and a private military plane after Benomar mediated with the Houthis, convincing them to alleviate the suffocating siege on the region.
Clashes between the Houthis and Salafists are still ongoing in several regions of northern Yemen, and hundreds have been reported killed or wounded in the most recent clashes.
Earlier this week, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula pledged to exact revenge against the Houthis following the deaths of hundreds of Salafists. Suspected Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Sheikh Harith Al-Nadhari appeared in an online video accusing the Houthis of committing “gruesome crimes, killing children and women, and storming houses and mosques.”
“We declare our complete solidarity with our Sunni brothers in Dammaj and other areas in all governorates. We tell them: your injury is our injury, your tragedy is our tragedy, and your enemy is our enemy,” he added.
The Saada Issue Working Group has approved its final report, which will be presented to the Yemen National Dialogue Conference. The report calls for all heavy weapons to be removed from all parties of the conflict and for general reconciliation to be achieved.
The draft report also highlights the importance of monitoring religious education to overcome the existing sectarian divisions between the Houthis and the Salafists. It also establishes doctrinal and intellectual freedoms, rejecting these being imposed or prevented through force of arms. The report also rejected political parties forming military or pseudo-military wings and imposing political change through the use of force.