A group of Jewish Yemenis have taken refuge in a hotel in the Yemen capital and are under government protection after allegedly being threatened by a group of rebels, a Yemen official said.
About 45 Jewish Yemenis belonging to seven families were first relocated in January to a hotel in the capital, San'a, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) south from their home in the northern Saada province where clashes between Shiite rebels and government forces have killed more than 500 people in recent months.
The group later returned to Saada after the government ordered a police station to be built in their town, said Mohammed al-Basha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, DC.
But last week, the rebels allegedly approached the Jewish leaders in Saada and accused them of the violence, al-Basha said Monday. The group has since returned to San'a and are staying in a hotel, he said.
"We are working tirelessly for their protection and long-term security," al-Basha said. "We are very proud of Yemeni diversity, and they represent an indispensable part of our history."
Yemen had about 70,000 Jews before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, most of whom have since left. Up to 400 are still believed to be in Yemen.
The rebels are part of a Shiite Muslim group known as "The Young Faithful Believers" that accuses the government of being corrupt and too close to the West. The government has been fighting the rebels, who are followers of Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi, since June 2004.
The most recent clashes erupted in late January and have so far claimed the lives of more than 400 government troops and 136 rebels, officials have said.
The rebels have repeatedly launched guerrilla-style attacks on army targets, in small groups of five to 10. The army has responded with artillery bombardments, helicopters and tank attacks.
Yemen's interior minister has accused the rebel group of receiving funds from abroad, and the Saudi Arabian government also suspects outside governments, including Shiite dominated Iran, of backing al-Hawthi.
Iran's embassy in Yemen has denied that Tehran has a role in the clashes, Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, has reported.