Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 21:03 pm (KSA) 18:03 pm (GMT)

Yemen rebels say ready to open UN aid corridors

Displaced Yemenis from Saada province stand outside their tents at a camp set up by the UNHCR
Displaced Yemenis from Saada province stand outside their tents at a camp set up by the UNHCR

Shiite Zaidi rebels said on Wednesday they are ready to open humanitarian corridors for the tens of thousands of civilians displaced by their deadly conflict with government forces in northern Yemen.

"We are prepared to open corridors and to secure routes linking the camps" for the displaced, they said in a statement posted on the Internet.

But they want the corridors put "directly under the control of the United Nations, with a guarantee that the authorities do not use them to send in reinforcements" for Yemeni troops.

An estimated 150,000 people have been displaced or affected by the conflict since 2004. The tally includes about 55,000 who have fled since the government launched an offensive against the Zaidis in the mountainous north on Aug. 11.

On Sunday, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes appealed at the end of a three-day visit for the protection of the displaced, pointing out that women and children accounted for 80 percent of the most vulnerable.

"I urge all involved in the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians in line with international humanitarian law, to allow us to reach those who need assistance, rapidly and without hindrance," he said.

The government has since announced that it was also ready to allow for humanitarian corridors but accused the rebels of opening fire on fleeing civilians and mining the escape routes.

"It has been eight weeks since fighting escalated in northern Yemen and humanitarian agencies are yet to be allowed access to the vast majority of the 150,000 persons," the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

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