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11 Apr, 2015 18:37

'Nobody will help us evacuate:' Americans urge Washington to help flee Yemen war

As the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen continue and the fighting on the ground intensifies, US citizens stuck in Yemen have lashed out at Washington for ignoring their pleas for help as they try to leave the war-torn country.

Aerial bombardment and street battles have become a daily reality for people in Yemen. “We hear a few bombings a day. It’s very scary right now,” Arwa Al-Iraine, a US citizen trapped in Yemen told RT.

“Nobody will help us evacuate. The reply [of the US government] was an automated message that they do not have any evacuation plans. Basically we are left on our own.”

Another US citizen Shamsan Mansoob stranded in the strife-stricken country hit out at Washington, saying that “we never heard anything from them.” He told RT that his family - a pregnant wife and his son – couldn’t even leave the war zone as “there is no gas at the stations.”

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of casualties as scores of people are killed every day. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that between March 19 and April 6, 643 people had died as a result of the violence in Yemen. These figures include 74 children.

Two weeks ago, the first American citizen was killed in the conflict between Houthi rebels and the government forces.

“He was trapped there for over three weeks, waiting for assistance to leave the country, but unfortunately after the airports of the capital Sanaa and Aden were closed, he was stuck there with other people,” Mohammed Alazzani, 27, the cousin of the killed American Jamal al Labani, told RT.

Houthi fighters walk as smoke rises from a military supply post after it was hit by an air strike in Yemen's northwestern city of Saada (Reuters / Naiyf Rahma)

Labani was killed by shrapnel from tank fire as he was returning from a mosque, Alazzani said, adding that he died instantly.

These accounts are among dozens from those who are still stranded in the conflict zone.

“Hundreds of US families are actually stuck in Yemen, and they are asking for evacuation. If there is no concrete chance of evacuation from the State Department, they should use other countries,” Summer Nasser, an activist and freelance author, told RT.

“The airstrikes haven’t been the biggest problem lately, it’s more of the shooting done by the army itself – like the shelling around Aden port, there have been people killed there. I do know that there were two airstrikes on a manufacturing company on the outskirts of Aden, it was manufacturing ammunition,” he added.

Human rights groups have launched an online initiative to help US citizens remaining in Yemen. So far over 500 American have registered on the website.

READ MORE: Sanaa-tized? Rights groups sue State Dept for refusing to evacuate 1,000s of Americans from Yemen

One of the campaigners seeking assistance from Washington, Abed Ayoub, who is the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that “we were surprised by the diversity of US citizens [in Yemen]”.

On Thursday, human rights groups filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for failing to provide the stranded citizens with assistance.

“We’re hoping that the State Department takes action, fulfills its obligation and brings the US citizens home,” Ayoub told RT. “Now that the pressure is being put on the State Department, it is in position where its forced to act, it needs to act. It should not have gone to the point that we need to file a lawsuit…”

People gather at the site of an air strike at a residential area near Sanaa Airport (Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

“The US government to date has not done anything to evacuate US citizens, after they themselves evacuated the embassy employees and personnel out of Yemen back in February,” Jenifer Wicks, a representative of the Council on American-Islamic relations told RT.

“We’ve made every effort to bring this issue to their attention and my understanding from reviewing press-conferences and other releases from the Department of State; they have basically said ‘good luck’.”

The US, which is providing logistical support for the Saudi air-strike campaign, has previously stated that there are “no government-sponsored plans” to evacuate US citizens from Yemen.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the department is "aware of some American citizens who remain in Yemen."

"We remain in contact, through a variety of means, to advise American citizens in Yemen about the opportunities that present themselves for people who leave if they choose," Rathke said.

While the US has not sought to evacuate its citizens, several flights have been made from Moscow to help Russians leave from the Sanaa international airport.

They also evacuated citizens of several other states, among them Belarusians, Poles, Ukrainians, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. On Tuesday, India, who is leading the rescues efforts, evacuated over 200 foreigners from Yemen, in addition to its nationals who had been helped to safety earlier.

“India took out over 4,000 of their nationals in three days. If India can do it, why can’t the US?” questioned Ayoub.