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Fresh fighting in Yemen ignites refugee crisis

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“My house was bombed and, by God, I don’t even know who bombed it. We lost everything,” says Fatima Ghais, as she stood in a tent and pointed to a plastic bag that held some clothes and plastic cups. Ghais, like many in the camp, is completely dependent on the UNHCR and other relief services which are providing food, water, and shelter.

The day before the third camp opened on Dec. 17, another 64 families arrived, estimated Nabil Ahmad, an assistant manager with Islamic Relief. Outside the camps, dozens of civilians have reportedly been wounded and killed in the northern Saada governorate, according to an update published today by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

High praise for UNHCR

In the town of Mazrak, Yemeni soldiers crowd the town’s qat market – the mild narcotic leaf is a key staple of society here – before heading back to the front, only 19 miles away in Minzalah. Despite five years of fighting, Yemen’s army has been unable to quell the Houthi rebellion, which has escalated in recent months due to a renewed offensive by the Yemeni army.

The Yemeni government claims that the Houthis – adherents to a radical form of Zaidism, a conservative off-shoot of Shiite Islam – want to overthrow Yemen’s government and reestablish the imamate. However, the Houthis, who have never clearly articulated their political agenda, deny this and say they are fighting to defend their land, beliefs, and culture against a government that discriminates against them.

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