Protesters in Yemen took another violent hit from forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh early Monday. The Yemeni soldiers fired on the crowd, killing at least 20.
After Saleh unexpectedly turned away a last-minute signing of a power-relinquishing pledge a week ago, the crackdown on anti-government protesters on the streets of Yemen has intensified.
The latest clash took place in the southern city of Taiz, the second largest city in Yemen. According to Reuters, police fired live ammunition into the large crowd and also used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. Tents and a hospital set up by the protesters were destroyed.
Witnesses described the attack as a massacre.
Since Saturday, the demonstrators had gathered there to demand the release of a fellow protester who was arrested that day.
Protests against the government began early this year, following similar uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East. Tired of the human rights abuses, corruption and lack of democratic reform, they’re calling for Saleh’s overthrow.
Saleh, who has ruled for more than 30 years, promised three times to sign an agreement to transfer power but reneged each time at the last minute. He has said that al-Qaida could take over many parts of the country if he leaves office.
Over the past several months, nearly 300 Yemenis have been killed, according to Reuters, as a result of the acute escalation in violence by government forces.
Sheik Al Ahmar, who is part of the opposition, told Reuters, "We wanted a peaceful revolution. But Ali Abdullah Saleh and his sons and loyalists want war. We won't allow him to turn this into a civil war. He attacked our house but we are steadfast, now there is mediation between us to stop the war."