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Yemen rebels confiscated humanitarian aid, says Human Rights Watch

International relief agencies are facing difficulties bringing in food and medicine [AFP]

Date of publication: 31 January, 2016

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Houthi rebels have been confiscating humanitarian aid intended for civilians in Taiz, said New York based group Human Rights Watch in a statement on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch has accused Yemen's Houthi rebels of confiscating humanitarian aid sent into Taiz, urging the Iran-backed insurgents to allow access into the besieged city.

The rebels "should immediately end the unlawful confiscation of goods intended for the civilian population and permit full access by aid agencies," HRW said in a statement on Sunday.

"Seizing property from civilians is already unlawful, but taking their food and medical supplies is simply cruel," its deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Joe Stork, said.

HRW said the population of the city had dropped from about 600,000 to no more than 200,000 civilians after many fled the fighting, according to UN figures.

For months, Houthis and their allies have tightened the noose on forces backing President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the center of Yemen's third-largest city.

Since at least September, the rights watchdog said, rebel guards at checkpoints have confiscated water, food, cooking gas and medical supplies that residents tried to carry into besieged areas.

International relief agencies are also facing difficulties bringing in food and medicine, HRW said.

Doctors Without Borders said it delivered essential medical supplies to hospitals in the city in early January, in the first such "significant" shipment since August.

That came several days after a Saudi charity said that aircraft of the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the rebels had dropped 40 tonnes of medical equipment and food to Taiz.

Continuous airstrikes

Meanwhile, Saudi-led airstrikes continue to target sites held by Houthi rebels and loyalists of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen's capital city of Sanaa and its surrounding areas.

The targets of near-daily airstrikes include the Houthi-controlled area of al-Nahdayn mountain, located near the Presidential Palace and the Special Security Forces camp in the strategic district of al-Sabeen, as well as the west Sanaa district of Faj Attan, which houses the command of the ballistic missiles brigades.

The airstrikes have not been limited to military sites; they have also targeted houses owned by the ousted President's son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as a building that belonged to the Yemeni military economic enterprise.

Al-Dulaimi airbase, the headquarter of Yemen's air force that was taken over by the Houthis after they invaded Sanaa in 2014, as well as the camps of Subaha and presidential guards, have also been the targets of continuous airstrikes.

In recent months, the coalition focused its raids on Houthi sites east of Sanaa, particularly in Khawlan, Bani Hashish, and Nehem.

Since March, the coalition has conducted air and ground operations in Yemen to support local forces against the rebels and their allies.

More than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen since March, about half of them civilians, according to the UN.

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