US special forces have reportedly been sent to Yemen to train its army, as the Yemeni military backed by the Saudi Arabian army has been fighting local Houthi fighters in the north of the country.
The development comes amid fears that foreign military intervention in the country has put Yemeni civilians in dire condition.
American officials told The Daily Telegraph on Sunday that US forces have been sent to Yemen to prevent the country from turning into a “reserve base” for al-Qaeda.
The move to strengthen Yemen’s army comes at a time that the country’s army is not fighting with al-Qaeda militants, which are based in the southern parts of the country.
The conflict in northern Yemen began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters. The conflict intensified in August 2009 when the Yemeni army launched Operation Scorched Earth in an attempt to crush the Shia fighters in the northern province of Sa’ada.
The government claims that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia Zaidi imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 coup
The Houthis reject the claim and accuse the Yemeni government of violation of their civil rights, political, economic and religious marginalization as well as large-scale corruption.
The Saudi air force has further complicated the conflict by launching its own operations against Shia resistance fighters.
Saudi fighter jets are reportedly using phosphorus bombs against the Houthi fighters.
Houthi fighters on Sunday said that Saudi forces launched a major cross-border airstrike on Yemen, leaving at least 70 civilians dead and more than 100 others injured in the northern district of Razeh.
As Sana’a does not allow independent media into the conflict zone, there are no clear estimates available as to how many people have been killed in the Shia province of Sa’adah since the beginning of the conflict.
International aid agencies and some UN bodies including United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have voiced concern over the dire condition of the Yemeni civilians who have become the main victims of the conflict in the country.
UNICEF has deplored the plight of children in northern Yemen. UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Sigrid Kaag, said “They (children) are living in difficult conditions, away from their homes and schools despite significant humanitarian relief efforts.”
UNHCR estimates that since 2004, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa’ada and take refuge at overcrowded camps in which, according to UN reports, bad conditions have resulted in children’s deaths.
The United Nations which according to its charter is set up “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace” has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.