Yemeni rebels and clans clash


Hours after tribal leaders reached a truce in northern Yemen, clashes erupted Sunday in fighting between government-backed clans and Houthi rebels that has killed more than 60 people in recent days, according to tribal sources and media reports.

The latest round of bloodshed broke out last week in the tribally dominated provinces of Amran and Saada after the government accused the Houthi tribal alliance of assassinating a pro-government sheik and his son.

Four people were killed in Sunday’s clashes, which came after President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he did not want renewed fighting between government troops and Houthi rebels.

The volatile region on the border with Saudi Arabia has undergone six outbursts of fighting since 2004 as government troops and their supporters have sought to defeat the Houthis, a Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam that claims ill treatment by the government and controls vast swaths of territory.

Saudi Arabia was drawn into the fighting last year when the rebels crossed the border and attacked Saudi guards. The kingdom claimed victory over the Houthis after months of airstrikes that left villages in rubble and scattered unexploded ordnance across the rugged terrain.

More than 300,000 people have been displaced, and now live in camps or with host families in deteriorating conditions. The World Food Program, strained by the increased demand for food and water aid, has cut rations to the needy by half. Lack of funding threatens to stop aid entirely.

“What’s worrying about the clashes is the intensity, and this could trigger a seventh round of war.... It is very likely we would have a new round of displacement,” said WFP country director Giancarlo Cirri, speaking from Saada.

The broken truce comes after the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad ibn Khalifa al Thani, flew to Yemen last week offering to resurrect a peace deal brokered in Doha in 2008. The agreement, which includes an end to hostilities and amnesty to rebels, was welcomed by some groups but greeted with skepticism by Hassan Zaid, a politician with ties to the Houthis.

Fordham is a special correspondent.

Times staff writer Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo contributed to this report.