October 30, 2009 / 5:08 PM / 10 years ago

Civilians killed in north Yemen fighting - UNHCR

SANAA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - An unknown number of displaced Yemenis who had taken refuge in a camp were killed in fighting between the army and Shi’ite rebels, the U.N. refugee agency reported on Friday.

In a separate incident, the rebels’ website accused the government of a "massacre of civilians", saying 22 people were killed and 15 wounded when the air force bombed a village in the area of Razih near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Fighting in the north of Yemen has intensified since the army began a push against the rebels in August. Aid groups, who have been given limited access to the northern provinces, say as many as 150,000 people have fled their homes.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter, fear the fighting in Yemen’s north and separatist unrest in the south could help provide al Qaeda a new base for operations.

The UNHCR said the civilian casualties were among 500 people who had found refuge at a camp near the northern city of Saada. It said they were killed and wounded by a rocket or mortar round during fighting on Thursday.

"UNHCR is shocked and saddened by the latest reports of the loss of life and indiscriminate targeting of Yemeni civilians forced to flee their homes," the UNHCR, based in Geneva, said in a statement.

The state news agency Saba quoted an official as blaming the Shi’ite rebels for the attack on the camp.

The European Union expressed concern on Tuesday over conflict in Yemen and urged the government to do more to protect human rights and guarantee international humanitarian law.

Zaidi Shi’ite Muslims in the north launched their rebellion in 2004, complaining of political, economic and religious marginalisation in the poor Arabian Peninsula country.

(Writing by Firouz Sedarat; editing by Michael Roddy)

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