(Sanaa) At least 85 people were killed and more than 322 injured in a stampede in the capital Sanaa at the hands of Houthi rebels, Houthi officials told AFP on Thursday.
“Eighty-five people were killed, and more than 322 were injured” in a stampede, during a charity action organized in the district of Bab el Yemen, said a security source in Sanaa. This assessment was confirmed by an official of the rebel medical authorities.
“Women and children are among the dead,” and about 50 injured are in serious condition, said the security source, who requested anonymity because she is not authorized to speak to the media.
The victims of this stampede, one of the deadliest for ten years, were transported to nearby hospitals, and the organizers of the event arrested, said the Ministry of the Interior in a press release published by the press agency of the rebels, Saba.
The press release did not specify the number of victims, contenting itself with mentioning “dozens of deaths following a stampede during a chaotic distribution of sums of money by certain traders”.
This charitable action comes a few days before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim month of fasting.
Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been devastated since 2014 by a conflict between the Houthis, rebels backed by Iran, and pro-government forces backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
The war has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, in a context of epidemics, lack of drinking water and acute hunger. More than three quarters of the population depend on international aid, which nevertheless continues to decline.
In rebel-held areas, including the capital Sanaa, many civil servants have not been paid for months.
A UN-brokered six-month truce was not renewed when it expired in October, but the situation remained calm on the ground, offering respite to the population.
Last week, a Saudi delegation, accompanied by Omani mediators, traveled to Sanaa for talks aimed at reviving the truce and laying the groundwork for a more durable ceasefire.
In this context, the government and the rebels have carried out in recent days a major exchange of nearly 900 prisoners.
Yemen has not seen such a “serious opportunity” for a process to achieve peace for eight years, UN envoy Hans Grunberg said on Monday.
But “let’s not kid ourselves. There is still a lot of work to be done to build trust and compromise,” he warned.