Cairo: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Al Houthi militiamen on Saturday rounded up dozens of people in the militia-held capital Sana’a ahead of planned protests in the city against economic woes, local media reported.

In the past days, calls emerged online, urging residents of Sana’a to take to the streets to stage what campaigns called a “revolution of the hungry”.

A war of more than three years has devastated Yemen’s economy and pushed the poor country to the brink of famine.

The local currency has nosedived, losing about two thirds of its value.

Al Houthi militiamen Saturday detained eight female students at the Sana’a University for participating in a protest, Yemeni news portal Adan Al Ghad reported.

The militiamen also displayed their power at the gate of the university with the aim of intimidating would-be protesters, according to the report.

Militia women, carrying guns, marched in the city and detained several female protesters, who defied Al Houthis’ ban on demonstrations, local media said.

Witnesses said the detained men and women were chanting: “We will sacrifice our soul, our blood for you, Yemen.”

The students were taken to a nearby Al Houthi-run police station, after which they were transported to “unknown locations”, the activists told AFP, adding the rebels closed the university as part of security measures.

Al Houthis, in control of Sana’a since late 2014, have deployed in large numbers across the city Saturday, local residents said. The militias prevented people from leaving their homes and head to Al Tahrir Square in central Sana’a, the site of the protests. Thousands of Al Houthi gunmen and armoured vehicles sealed off main roads leading to the square, locals added.

In recent weeks, several Yemeni areas have seen angry protests against sharp rises in food prices and the plunge in the local currency.

Last month, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi ordered an increase in salaries of the public sector employees in an attempt to ease life’s hardships.

The UN office in Yemen has warned that the collapse of the country’s riyal worsens the threat of starvation faced by millions there.

“If the value of the Yemeni Riyal continues to decline, another 3.5 to 4 million people will be in a pre-hunger situation,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in a statement.

She added that the World Food Programme and its partners are providing monthly food assistance to some eight million people suffering from “extreme hunger” in Yemen.

“The situation is already unbearable and we will reach the point of irreversibility unless something is done to save the currency,” Grande said.

Al Houthis plunged Yemen into unrest in September 2014 when they deposed the internationally recognized government and overran Sana’a.

In March 2015, an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened in Yemen at a request from the government against Al Houthis after the militants advanced on the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.

In recent weeks, the government forces, supported by the coalition’s air power, have stepped military action against Al Houthis in different parts of Yemen.

At least 17 militiamen were killed or injured when the Yemeni army foiled an infiltration attempt by Al Houthis in the province of Al Bayda, September Net, linked to the Defence Ministry, reported Saturday.

Fierce clashes followed the thwarted infiltration bid during which the extremists suffered heavy casualties as others fled, a field source said.

Al Houthis have recently suffered military setbacks and territorial losses at the hands of the coalition-backed government loyalists.

— with inputs from AFP


ERC food aid reaches over 230,000 Yemenis in 10 days

Aden: The Emirates Red Crescent, ERC, has distributed 33,000 food baskets to people in liberated Yemeni districts over the past ten days, reaching 231,000 Yemeni citizens, including 165,000 children and 34,000 women.

The distribution covered 21 districts in nine Yemeni governorates: Aden, Dhale, Abyan, Lahej, Hodeida, Hadramout, Shabwa, Taiz and Al Mahra.

The efforts are part of an ongoing food and humanitarian assistance campaign to ease the suffering of Yemenis as a result of the violations and siege imposed by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias.

Saeed Al Kaabi, ERC Humanitarian Operations Director in Yemen, said that the increased aid will enhance food security for Yemeni families affected by the dire humanitarian situation.