Holed up in a makeshift bunker, crowded to the brim, the women and children of Dammaj are thankful for a brief quiet after the storm of war. For weeks they have lived with the sky raining hot metal upon them, the ground shaking beneath them and death all around. One American woman, whom I will call Umm Ahmed, has endured more than one war against Dammaj, but “ this one is the worst”. She had never heard such crashing sounds, with such intensity and such frequency in all the years of attacks on Dammaj by Houthi factions. She sits with her children after asr and plays a game with them to distract them. While there is little food and little water, there are plenty of shells from bullets. She makes up a sort of “bowling” game where they stack up the shells and see how far they can go until they fall.
The question on everyone’s mind, and one that has been voiced by many of Dammaj’s students, is how far the Houthis are truly going to go. The eyewitness accounts are horrific, and many cannot comprehend the mindset of those who will not cease attacking so that the dead can be collected. They wonder about the mentality of those who not only bomb places of prayer, not only prevent aid from entering, but also target hospitals where the facilities are already far from sufficient to care for limbs that are blown off, severed intestines and exposed head wounds.
One female student and British national who preferred to be called Aaliyah, spoke of what her husband had seen. “ One brother … Canadian…was shot in his head. Another brother had his leg blown off and bled to death because he couldn’t get treatment. Someone else had a chunk taken out the top of his head and was scratching it, taking bits of flesh with it and unaware of what he was doing.”
She went onto express how uncertain the future seemed. “I don’t know if we are going to come out of this alive. It seems that this is a government thing. For someone to phone from the government and say give them Barakah… We are being bombed and killed…what does Barakah have to do with it?”
Apparently a lot, as Mount Barakah is a mountain that sitting at a strategic position on one of Dammaj’s borders. It overlooks the surrounding regions, and many times has been included in various stipulations presented by the Houthis as a condition for a ceasefire. But once the Houthis have access to Barakah, they would have access to all of Dammaj, and the students are determined not to let this happen. Apparently so is Sheikh Yahya al-Hujooree, even if it meant that his own life might be taken. It was said by one student that the first row of men who were defending Dammaj against Houthi entry were killed, and that al-Hujooree was ready to go to fight saying, “How can I just sit here and wait while my students are being killed?”
One contact expressed that today in Dammaj, six Houthi spies were caught analyzing various key areas. One was caught with a flashlight observing a protective ditch, and presumably its depth, to explain to his superiors. Although there is little to elaborate on, it is clear that the spies were passing on detailed information to the Houthi faction to give them better understanding of how to attack and where to shoot their missles.
By Andrea Christoph
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