Yemen’s war is trapping thousands of Americans in the country without any help from the U.S. government. Arab-American groups in the United States are continuing to press for an evacuation of all American citizens to the point that several groups have filed legal action.
The Saudi coalition began air strikes again on Thursday after two days of a ceasefire. Officials said on Tuesday the war was entering a new phase, moving from a military campaign to a restoration effort. That did not last as the latest reports are that the Saudis are attempting to once against hit key areas occupied by Shiite rebels in an attempt to push the rebels back.
Arab-Americans moved into action during the cease-fire, urging U.S. officials to use the window of opportunity to perform a rescue mission of citizens in Yemen. Reports vary on how many Americans are there and the numbers range between 4,000 and 5,000 people.
So far, American officials have offered no help in evacuating U.S. citizens from the war-torn country. Officials, at first, said a rescue effort was too dangerous for military personnel. However, the U.S. initiated a rescue of 15,000 Americans in Lebanon in 2006. The Pentagon assisted in the mission and it was deemed successful.
India has already rescued 4,500 people from Yemen in a mission earlier this month. That number includes some Americans, according to officials. Russian officials also implemented a plan this week to rescue American citizens using Russian ships.
The lack of movement from the State Department on evacuating citizens resulted in groups filing two lawsuits. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Coalition, the Council on American Islamic Relations and Asian Americans Advancing Justice filed the lawsuits aimed at the Defense and State Departments to force the departments to perform an evacuation from the war-torn country. The groups also are reaching out to Americans trapped in Yemen with a website –– to gather information about citizens there and seek ways to help them escape. Reports are that 600 citizens have registered on the website. Getting them out is proving to be more challenging and only a few have managed to find an escape route out, according to those in charge of the website.
State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that travel warnings have been in place for Yemen since the mid-1990s and the U.S. is offering information on ways Americans can leave. That is all the State Department intends to do, according to Harf.
A significant part of Yemen’s battles is centered around the port city of Aden. The rebels, called Houthis, have been trying to capture Aden. Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia in March, declared that Aden is Yemen’s temporary capital. That makes the city of vital importance. Air strikes have reportedly slowed down the rebel advance, but reports indicate the Houthis are occupying areas near the city’s center. There have been ongoing battles in those areas for several days. The Saudi coalition hopes to restore Hadi as president. For the thousands of Americans trapped in Yemen, the hope is the U.S. government will change its position and offer help.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by eesti – Flickr license