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CAIRO – As a Shiite rebel offensive and Saudi-led airstrikes rage on in Yemen, thousands of Yemenis remain stuck in Egypt, unable to return home.
Saudi Arabia, which launched its campaign against Houthi rebels in late March, has closed the airspace over the Arab world's poorest country, halting all commercial flights. And while the plight of foreigners in Yemen trying to escape has caught the attention of many, Yemenis trying to return home increasingly have fewer options as their money runs out, with some saying they even sleep on the streets of Cairo.
"We have nothing left to sell," said Saleh Hadad, a Yemeni man from the country's Marib province. "Where are we supposed to go?"
Many, like Hadad and his mother, who has liver cancer, traveled to Egypt for medical care they can't receive back home. Some families have been able to scrounge up small apartments to rent. Others say they have become effectively homeless.
Estimates widely range on how many are now stuck, with activist Rawan al-Aghbary saying some 3,800 Yemenis are trying to get home. Abu Bakr Badheeb, the spokesman of the Yemeni Embassy in Cairo, said 4,700 of the 5,800 citizens of his country now in Egypt want to return.
An embassy statement suggests that number grows by 200 each day as flights are cancelled. It said embassy officials, as well as Yemeni businessmen living in Cairo and international agencies, are trying to find a way to relieve their plight.
But the embassy, surrounded by police, has become a growing focal point for the anger of Yemenis still in Egypt. Some say they can't get visas for family members who fled the violence in Yemen to come to Cairo.
And while some in Yemen make a perilous voyage across the sea to Djibouti to begin lives as refugees, many of those in Egypt simply want to return home.
"We are just simple farmers from the countryside," Yemeni traveler Khaidara Hussein said. "We would rather return and die among our families than live like this here."