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Saudi Shia town under 'siege' for sixth day

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Saudi police secure a neighborhood where two men reportedly blew themselves up during a firefight with security forces on January 21, 2017, in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. (Photo by AFP)

A Saudi town has entered the sixth day under "siege" from the kingdom’s security services, with several people reportedly killed in clashes between police and protesters. 

Saudi forces started their attack on Awamiyah on May 10, using gunships and heavy weapons. The city in the Eastern Province has a large Shia population.

The Saudi regime says the aim of the raid is to allow the demolition of the historic Almosara neighborhood to make way for a planned renovation project. 

Activists have posted pictures and videos of bulldozers being accompanied by heavily armored military vehicles towards the site.

They say the residents of Awamiyah are suffering severe water shortage and are able to access power only from private generators.

This photo taken by a local resident on his twitter account shows vehicles standing ready to demolish buildings in Awamiyah. 

Ameen Nemer, an activist originally from Awamiyah, told Middle East Eye online news portal that most of the entrances to the village have been blocked off so that "cars hardly go out or get in".

"The cleaners are not allowed to go there to collect the rubbish, neither are the firefighters allowed to do the job of extinguishing fires wherever it happens, neither are ambulances allowed to enter Awamiyah," he said.

"It's really hard for people and you can imagine these army vehicles, they would open fire like 24 hours. People can't sleep. You have these vehicles going back to where they come and then you have new ones come to replace these soldiers," he added.

Last month, UN special rapporteur Leilani Farha warned that the controversial project threatened the historical and cultural heritage of Awamiyah “with irreparable harm".

"Residents have been pressured in many ways, including through power cuts, to vacate their homes and businesses without adequate alternative resettlement options, leaving them at best with insufficient compensation and at worst, with nowhere to go,” she said. 

Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing, presents her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in this file photo.

The Saudi Interior Ministry claimed on Friday that a toddler and a Pakistani resident had been killed as workers on the renovation project came under fire.

However, media reports said regime forces shot dead the child while he was moving with his family near Awamiyah. The child’s mother was also critically injured in the attack.

A young man, identified as Ali Mohammad Kazim, was also shot dead at the hands of the Saudi forces ​on Friday.

Al-Hayat newspaper said a man wanted by the authorities had been killed while the Mira al-Jazeera news site reported that two locals had also been shot dead by the security forces.

One of the men was identified by the European Saudi Human Rights Organization (ESHRO) as Ali Abdul Aziz Abu Abdullah.

The Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime which has ramped up stringent security measures across the province.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of the Riyadh regime. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif in 2012.

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