the war in yemen, pro-government forces close in on a strategic city being held by houthi rebels for months. ♪ hello and welcome to al jazeera, live from our doha headquarters. i'm laura kyle. also, a bloody day in damascus. plus -- >> i'm natasha ghoneim in south sudan, women are walking here into the bush to collect firewood, and coming back out, beaten and raped. and picture-perfect one day,
choking with smog the next. a city in poland tries to clean up its act. ♪ houthi rebels are strengthening defenses in sana'a, after suffering more losses in the south. troops loyal to the exiled president are now in the strategic city of ibb, being backed by saudi-led air strikes. >> reporter: fighters take up positions in the mountains. the winding roads lead to the city of ibb. an important flash point as pro-government troops advance towards the north. they are backed by the saudi-lead coalition, and loyalists of former president saleh. in recent weeks they have made sweeping gains in the south and
say they have the support of the tribesmen. >> translator: we say go on, the people are behind you and victories are coming. >> reporter: the fighters supporting president hadi, who remains in exile in saudi arabia, have been able to seize control from the houthis with the help of their allice. saudi arabia and the uae are providing weapons which seems to be changing the situation on the ground. fighters are preparing a two-pronged approach towards the capitol from one ma'rib in the east and the other from the south. but they will face resistance in lamar, where there is support for the houthi fighters. >> the introduction of the grand modern armor tanks, and the trained yemeni by saudi, make
the shift, and i think after the fall of ta'izz and ibb, sana'a will be surrounded. that's the aim of the coalition. i think they want to surround sana'a, and especially the troops coming from ma'rib. >> reporter: but the houthis also have support. hundreds of protesters gathered in the capitol and condemned the saudi-lead air strikes. >> translator: our presence here is confirmation, but we remain steadfast, and will never retreat and we will stand against this new colonialism. >> reporter: there are reports of talks to try to find a solution. so far the u.n. hasn't been able to help negotiate a ceasefire. in a war that has already claimed hundreds of lives and put millions more at risk because of lack of basic supplies. pro-government fighters see
themselves in a position to defeat the houthis. iran's foreign minister has arrived in damascus to meet syria's foreign minister, the president, and other leaders. the visit comes as rebel fighters shell the center of damascus. at least five people have been killed. and rebel forces are targeting forces on the out skirts of the city. at least 40 have been killed there. let's speak now to zana hoda, if i can, who is live from beirut in neighboring lebanon. the iranian foreign minister is now in syria meeting with the president. what is this trip all about? >> reporter: well, really, iran is on a diplomatic offensive. it has a plan, that's what they say. they have a plan to resolve the syrian crisis. s like you mentioned, he was in
beirut, he held meetings here, and now he's holding talks with the syrian president in damascus. and he reiterated another call, calling for dialogue, saying that iran is extending its hand to gulf arab countries in order for them to engage in dialogue, in order for them to -- you know, mend their differences. this is his message in beirut. but really, there's a few details on what this peace plan is about. what we understand from state media, iranian state media, is that it calls for a ceasefire, it calls for the creation of a national unity government, it calls for amending the constitution and holding elections under international supervision. the state media did not mention anything about the fate and future of bashar al-assad, which really has been the main sticking point since the beginning of this conflict. the opposition will not accept anything less than assad leaving
power. one of the regional players in the conflict, saudi arabia, who supports the opposition made that very clear a few days ago when he met his russian counterpart in moscow. he said assad is part of the problem and not the solution. we don't know the details about iran's plan, but we know that iran is trying to push for this plan, but zarif was also supposed to visit turkey yesterday, but his visit was abruptly canceled with some suggestions that turkey and iran do not see eye-to-eye. the bottom line is this, there are diplomatic efforts to try to find on agreement. the international community agreements that there is a need for an agreement. but forming the basis of negotiations is proving to be difficult. >> absolutely. and his arrival comes just after damascus has been hit by the
rebels. what is the significance of that fighting reaching the center of the capitol? >> reporter: well, many would interpret that as a message to the iranian foreign minister just hours after he arrived the shelling landing in the center of damascus. it showses that the government cannot even keep the capitol safe. the government carried out heavy bombardment where the rockets emanated from. a message that we are still here. we haven't lost this battle. but the international community is saying that there is no military solution to the conflict, but maybe both sides are betting on the fact that the dynamics on the ground may shift on the ground to see some sort of concession or compromise from the different players in order for an agreement to be reached,
but we're still far from there. and yes, the government has lost a lot of territory across the country, but it still controls crucial territory that allows it to stay in power. so there are diplomatic efforts to try to find a solution, but so far no progress. >> thanks very much for the update there from beirut. libya's prime minister has announced that he is planning to resign. then later said he will not step down. the united nations is trying to get the factions to form a unity government. an armed group in egypt affiliated to isil says it has killed a croatian man it was holding hostage. he was kidnapped in cairo last month. aid groups in south sudan say sexual violence against women is increasing. they have become more vulnerable to attacks since the civil war began two years ago.
natasha ghoneim reports. >> reporter: each day the displaced women in this area walk into the bush to collect firewood. they will spend half a day trying to collect enough to sell. some day, they are returning, beaten and raped. >> translator: they point the gun at us and told us to drop the firewood and follow them. >> reporter: this woman says she and a group of woman were gang raped by south sudanese soldiers at gunpoint. >> translator: thaf do a bad deed and they leave you like that, you are almost as good as dead. you are useless. all that is left is that they shoot us. >> reporter: these women are faced with a choice, trying to earn money when food is scarce, or staying inside this camp where they are protected by u.n. peace keepers. the international rescue committee says it has helped
thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence. women here told us they were beaten and raped in the bush by government soldiers. but aid groups say all parties in this conflict are guilty of sexually assaulting women. the government launched a campaign to encourage more women to report rape and seek treatment, but some are accusing it of doing nothing to stop soldiers from using rape as a weapon of war, an accusation the government denies. >> we will not allow them to do that. if, you know, we have now actually dispatched a team to investigate, you will find, you know, things that, you know, will shock you, simply because the people whom you are actually interviewing don't want to say the truth. it's a complaint against the
government. >> reporter: mary now worries that she has contracted a disease. she says she is too terrified to return to the bush. other women we spoke to say they are afraid of being attacked too, but they are still collecting firewood, and taking the risk to survive. natasha ghoneim, al jazeera, south sudan. the chinese currency has fallen to its weakest level against the u.s. dollar in four years after the central bank intervened to push the [ inaudible ] lower for a second day. russia is officially in recession, and the figures are worse than predicted. in march analysts predicted the economy has passed through the worst of its troubles, but they were wrong, and rory challenge reports from moscow. >> reporter: the economic front in russia's confrontation with the west is bringing
increasingly bizarre spectacles, these flowers going up in flame because of pest contamination. >> these are freshly cut flowers from the netherlands infected with california insects. >> the netherland suggests this is because of its investigation in the shooting down of mh17 last year. russia bans the import of many european foods. in recent days it has been destroying embargoed products. less spectacular but perhaps more destructive is what is happening to russia's economy. official figures show there was a 4.6% contraction in the second quarter of 2015, compared to the same quarter of last year. now that follows a 2.2%
contraction in the first three months of this year. there's no doubt about it, russia is in recession. of course this was widely expected. one has come as a bit of a shock, is that the contraction was slightly worse than analysts were predicting. >> in the second quarter, we saw that the real wages of the population continued to decline. also the retail was struggling, and in my view this was constraining consumption. >> reporter: the pressure of more than a year of western sanctions is playing a part in this. it is pulling the ruble back down to a dollar value not seen since february. the government here has been saying for several months now that the worst is over. it doesn't seem to be yet. rory challands, al jazeera, moscow. plenty more still to come here on al jazeera. >> i'm in the occupied west bank, where palestinians have stepped up patrols across their
villages, following the killing of an 18-month-old toddler and his father in a suspected israeli settler attack. and mexico's colorful makeover, gang members put down their weapons and pick up their paint brushes. it wasn't science at all. >> there's a lot of lives at stake, a lot of innocent people. >> how many are still locked up? >> the integrity of the criminal justice system is at stake, plain and simple. >> "faultlines". >> what do we want? >> al jazeera america's hard-hitting... >> today the will be arrested. >> ground-breaking... >> they're firing canisters of gas at us. >> emmy award-winning, investigative series. >> we have to get out of here.
strategic city of ibb. iran's foreign minister has arrived in damascus to meet syria's president. it comes as rebel fighters shell the center of the capitol. the government is targeting rebels on the outskirts of damascus. and aid groups in south sudan say sexual violence against women is on the rise. women are often raped and beaten as they go to collect firewood and water. some of southern india's poorest people are demanding justice over a failed land distribution scheme. the initiative was launched two years ago with the aim to provide land to pour households. each family would be given 121 square meters of land, but so far only one in ten have been given deeds. our correspondent reports from the district with the least
amount of land allocated. >> reporter: this person has never imagined that being given a piece of government land would cost so much despair with her low income and blind husband to take care of, they were prime candidates for the government scheme. >> translator: for 12 years we tried hard to get the land, and we finally did, but it's not in this area, and we can't move. we don't have money to build a house there. and now hour landlord wants to evict us. >> reporter: the land is in a fishing area, moving would mean losing our job. many here would consider them fortunate. 14,000 in this district have applied for the land scheme and only 150 so far have received land. the zero landless project was launched by the government two years ago to help pour families. these women were given papers
confirming their applications were successful two months ago, but they haven't got the plot yet. >> translator: if we don't get it soon, we will protest and we will commit suicide. that's the only way. we can't carry on like this. we are all very poor. >> reporter: in recent years social unrest over landownership has become common. about 70% of households here don't own land, one of the highest in inn -- india. activists say the scheme is ineffective and just gives the impression that the government is tackling the issue. >> translator: it may be land [ inaudible ] some other persons. sometimes that land may be [ inaudible ] sometimes that land may be usable. >> reporter: this district is one of the most densely
populated in the country, with 1,500 people for every square kilometer. >> better that the government gives us some fund to purchase land from those who are having surplus land. >> reporter: this person has been asking for help from the government to build a house, but has had no response. she now says life was better before she got the land. three high-ranging police officers in pakistan's district have been suspended for failing to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against children. five of the 14 men accused will remain in custody for up to 28 days. hundreds of children under the age of 14 were allegedly sexually abused by a gang of men who filmed and then blackmailed. communities in the occupied
west bank have increased night patrols around their towns and villages in response to the killing of an 18-month-old and his father. >> reporter: as darkness fell, they gathered on the edge of town. these are the palestinian residents in the occupied west bank, armed with flashlights and walking streets, they patrol the streets on the lookout for israeli settlers. this is one of around 100 volunteers. >> translator: once sthet lers set our mosque on fire, and we realized that no one was going to protect our village, so we formed these patrols to protect ourselves. >> reporter: more than two-thirds of the occupied west
bank is under full israeli control. this year alone there have been over 126 recorded incidents of settler-related violence, including a recent fire bomb attack that killed an 18-month-old and his father. palestinians say the point of the patrols is not to engage settlers in violence but to warn the residents if there is danger near. this was a rare example of palestinians successfully preventing settler violence. the palestinian authority says with so little of the palestinian territory under the pa's direct control, it is understandable residents are taking matters into their own hands.
>> this has to be within a political context. the political context is by ending the occupation and be having an international protection for the palestinian people in the west bank. >> reporter: until that happens, palestinians will continue to patrol their towns and villages, hoping no more people die at the hands of israeli settlers. the head of the united states environmental protection agency has apologized for a toxic spill into two colorado rivers. they accidentally released more than 11 million liters of objection to toxic slug into local streams. new mexico and colorado have both declared a state of emergency over the spill. >> reporter: i'm at the confluence of the animus river and cement creek.
it was in those hills over there where millions of liters of toxic sludge suddenly emerged. an a amazing plume of neon toxic material moving downstream. it moved through colorado, hit new mexico, into utah, it's still heading to the grand canyon. there are still questions as to how toxic it is, and what the long-term effects are. interestingly, here in colorado from the governor downwards they were very upbeat on tuesday. they suggested that the ph levels, the acidity levels have returned to normal, there is no discernible effect on the wildlife or fish stocks. even this sediment is unlikely to pose a threat in the future. however, they need to wait for what the environmental protection agency says for them to have been given the all clear to allow people back into the river, and that's is not likely
to come for another week or so. another pollution in one of poland's most elegant cities. it is often thick with smog and the heat wave has stretched the coal powered plants to its limits. >> reporter: there are plenty of reasons to visit krakow in the summertime. when the weather turns cold, the air fills with a thick toxic smog. >> it stinks. it's dirty. it's -- you know, it -- this smog goes down to the -- to the street. krakow during winter, there's no clear visibility, everything is dirty, everything is gray. >> reporter: household chimneys belch out toxic filth.
seven out of ten family homes burn cheap coal for heat. air pollution levels in the city are four time the world health organization's safe limit. >> my nose started bleeding one morning. it bled for over 20 hours until the doctor stopped it. my doctor is laughing at me when i am coming with problems. he keeps saying move out of town, move out of town. >> reporter: but who would want to leave this elegant city sparkling in the sunshine, a magnet for tourists. it was once poland's royal capitol, it is now the third-most polluted city in the european union. a campaign group, called the
krakow smog alarm fight back, warning residents they faced pollution levels equivalent to 2,500 cigarettes a year. but progress is slow. >> translator: all of our assets go to teaching people to live in more ecologically sensitive ways, and we do everything we can to convince tourists that they are safe in krakow and can breathe air that is getting cleaner. >> reporter: this family couldn't wait when they discovered their four year old son was getting sick. >> because he had very strong skin disease, which appeared only in krakow. it was enough to go out of the city for another part of country for three days, and the disease started to disappear. it is with clean air, it is because of the city. >> reporter: they left for the capitol warsaw with no plans to
return. we're going to finish up on a colorful note now. former drug gang members in mexico have put down their weapons and picked up paint brushes, and giving their neighborhood a multi-colored makeover. >> reporter: it's the biggest rural in mexico, a rainbow colored makeover for a poor bio. they have spent more than a year painting 200 houses. this is the man climbing up the ladder. >> translator: i feel good. proud to be part of this. because in the future, my children are going to see this and how the neighborhood looks good now. >> reporter: the mexican government funded the scheme to turn around the neighborhood known for crime and violence. it's all about putting the youth to work and giving them a
positive environment, says exgang member and now project leader. >> translator: art with social programs can change people's lives. empower neighbors, and generate social unity. murals like this one, get us working for a better mexico. >> reporter: mexico's well-known as the cradle of modern muralism, and great artists use it to expose the social and political problems of their time. but in this case the painters are looking to project harmony and unity. it's a brave color scheme, and some locals aren't too impressed. others see it as a multi-colored game changer. >> translator: we're all surprised by the new colors. this was a rough neighborhood. and now it has really calmed down. who knows how they have done it. the painters talk to the youngsters because they have come from difficult neighborhoods too, so they
understand them. >> reporter: 20,000 liters of paint later, and the new-look neighborhood monkey sees as a gift to his three young children is almost finished. jonah holman, al jazeera, mexico. all of our stories and more can be found on our website. aljazeera.com. the epa works to cleanup toxic waist in two colorado rivers. newly released security footage of a police shooting in ferguson. and hillary clinton agrees to turn over her private server amid allegations that some of the material included top-secret material.