Local sources in the al-Awamiyah town in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-populated Eastern Province say the locals have been told to either leave their homes or face death at the hands of security forces.
Since the early hours of Saturday, the Saudi forces have started taking the town under heavy shellfire, virtually barricading the public in their homes.
The sources said sharpshooters were training their fire on various targets from atop rooftops and inside armored vehicles. Ali al-Debisi, the leader of a Europe-based Saudi rights body, said the locals are afraid of going out for fear of coming under sniper fire.
Regime forces, meanwhile, continued to evict people from their homes in the town, they said.
The Qatif region in the province, where the town is located, has witnessed sporadic deaths of security personnel at the hands of unknown gunmen.
Blaming the Shia population for the attacks, Riyadh first started ordering security raids against the region before besieging the town and subjecting it to a so-called renovation project.
The project, which has featured wholesale destruction of age-old structures and rampant raids against various targets, has especially targeted the town’s historic Almosara neighborhood, where the government has been toughening living conditions in order to make people leave.
The sources said the forces were now offering people “safe conduct” to desert Almosara, and were combing the neighborhood for “holed-up terrorists.” Activists said the residents were resisting the eviction attempts.
On May 24, UN experts criticized the ongoing attempts to demolish Almosara and accused the Saudi kingdom of erasing cultural heritage, violating human rights, and forcing residents to flee their homes.
A month earlier, UN special Rapporteur Leilani Farha had 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.