Aden: Renewed clashes between pro-government forces and Iran-backed rebels killed at least 38 people in Yemen during the past 24 hours, loyalist military sources said on Tuesday. The latest fighting comes despite an ongoing ceasefire and UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait that began in April. Battles raged in Bayhan, on the border between Shabwa province in the south and Marib in the east. There was also fighting in Sarwah, an oil-rich area west of Marib, the sources said. At least 23 rebels and 15 soldiers were killed in both areas, the same sources said.
Bayhan is the only part of Shabwa province still controlled by the Iran-backed rebels, who on Tuesday retook positions seized by loyalists during the past two days, the military sources said. Fierce fighting in Bayhan on Sunday claimed the lives of 48 fighters, a senior military officer has said. Meanwhile, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that “sniper fire” from the Huthi rebels killed Yemeni journalist Abdullah Azizan while he was covering the clashes in Bayhan on Sunday. Azizan worked for the local marebpress.net news website. Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are backed by a Saudi-led coalition that began a military campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Loyalists, backed by coalition firepower, managed to drive rebels out of Shabwa and four other southern provinces last summer.
AFP Geneva: Survivors’ accounts now indicate the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing from Libya to Italy claimed at least 880 lives in the last week as unseaworthy, overcrowded smuggling boats capsised and sank under the weight of their human cargo, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday. The deadliest known tally in over a year could foreshadow disasters ahead in the next few months during the region’s traditional summer-fall spike in human trafficking as the weather and water grow warmer. UNHCR (European nations must work multilaterally )spokesman William Spindler said this year is proving to be “particularly deadly” on the Mediterranean, with some 2,510 lives lost compared to 1,855 in the same span a year ago.
International organisations had reported Sunday that over 700 migrants and refugees had perished in three Mediterranean shipwrecks on three straight days last week. Further interviews with traumatized survivors who were brought to Italian ports prompted UNHCR to increase the estimated number of dead from those wrecks and others. Saying UNHCR has “better figures now,” Spindler cited new estimates that about 100 people died in a shipwreck Wednesday, some 550 others died in another capsising Thursday and a third sinking on Friday left 170 others missing and presumed dead. UNHCR said survivors who landed in Augusta, Italy, over the weekend indicated that 47 other migrants were missing at sea in a separate incident after a raft carrying 125 migrants deflated.
“Eight others were reported separately to have been lost overboard from another boat, and four deaths were reported after fire on aboard another,” UNHCR said. Spindler said authorities were still tryi-ng to understand the jump in deaths, even as they know the region is moving into its high season for human trafficking. UNHCR cited unconfirmed accounts that smugglers might be trying to “maximize income” before the Ramadan holy month, which begins in the first week of June. Spindler also said he had never heard of smugglers using such risky tactics as having one overloaded boat tow another one overflowing with hundreds of people. Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, also pointed to a new tactic used by smugglers in recent weeks.
“Traffickers and smugglers working out of Libya are using much bigger boats now, carrying as many as 750 people, where for the last 12 months, we’ve been seeing a lot of smaller rubber inflatable dinghies,” Millman said at a Geneva news conference alongside Spindler. UNHCR said most boats leaving Libya are departing from Sabratha, west of Tripoli.
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