Street clashes resume in Yemeni capital

Al Jazeera reports:

At least 21 people have been killed and over 100 injured in fresh clashes on the streets of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, a day after 26 anti-government protesters were shot dead and hundreds wounded by troops and gunmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

According to reports, Monday’s deaths occurred as snipers fired upon passers-by and peaceful protesters demonstrating at Change Square.

“Help me, oh my God look at his slaughter!” said the father of a boy who died from a gunshot wound to the head.

“We were just in the car on Hayel Street (near the fighting). I stepped out to get some food and left my two boys in the car and I heard the older one scream. The little one was shot straight through the head.”

The clashes came as protesters tried to push further into territory held by government forces after extending their camp overnight.

Marc Lynch writes:

The violent crisis which many of us have been warning would result from neglecting Yemen and allowing its political stalemate to grind on has now arrived. The Sana’a massacre should be a crystal clear signal that the Yemeni status quo is neither stable nor sustainable, and that the failure to find a political resolution ensures escalating bloodshed and humanitarian crisis. It is time to push for an immediate political transition — and one which does not include immunity for Saleh’s men.

It has been difficult to get anyone to pay attention to Yemen. For months, ever since President Ali Abdullah Saleh had been rushed to Saudi Arabia for treatment of wounds from an apparent assassination attempt. Distracted by hot wars in Libya and Syria, the struggling transition in Egypt, and the diplomatic train wreck between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. and most of the region put Yemen on the back burner. Even though thousands of incredibly determined and resilient Yemenis continued to protest regularly, and analysts warned with increasing desperation that missing the opportunity to bring about a transition would be a disastrous mistake, the urgency faded away. Indeed, Saleh’s regime counted on that fading external urgency as part of its strategy of delay and distraction, hoping to outlast, confuse, divide, and where possible crush the protest movement. Now, Yemenis are paying for that neglect in blood.

The U.S., the GCC, the U.N., and Yemen’s opposition need to push for Saleh to leave power now and for Yemen to immediately begin a meaningful political transition. Not in a few months, not in a few years, and not empty promises of future change which no Yemeni any longer believes. This does not mean calling for military intervention. After Libya and the debate over Syria, military action has regrettably become many peoples’ first rather than last instinct even when it is very clearly neither appropriate nor likely. It means throwing full political support to Yemen’s opposition, making clear that Yemeni officials will be held accountable before international tribunals for their role in violence against civilians, and pushing hard to end a stalemate which too many saw as an acceptable state of affairs.

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