Saudi Arabia has reportedly laid waste to at least 320 houses in an eastern Shia-majority town, which it has placed under siege for about three months.
Local activists reported the figure on Monday, saying the structures in Awamiyah had mostly been populated by Shia Muslims.
They said Saudi forces also flattened four mosques and three Husainiyahs — centers for Shia mourning rituals.
Awamiyah is located in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Shia-populated Eastern Province. Since 2011, the small town of 30,000 has served as the epicenter of anti-regime rallies, with the protesters calling for an end to the kingdom’s discriminatory policies against the country’s Shia minority.
The region has witnessed sporadic deaths of Saudi forces at the hands of unknown gunmen. Riyadh blames the Shia population for such assaults.
Since May, Riyadh has imposed a siege on Awamiyah in what it calls a “security campaign” against the gunmen there, launching almost daily attacks against the town, destroying residential areas, setting fire to buildings, and reportedly threatening the residents to either leave or face potentially deadly swoops.
New York-based organization Human Rights Watch cited Awamiyah’s residents and activists as saying on Sunday that Saudi forces had encircled the town and sealed it off since July.
The al-Musawara neighborhood, Awamiyah’s old quarter, has been the hardest hit area in the crackdown. Also on Monday, local sources said a Saudi security personnel member was killed in the neighborhood.
The regime claims the security raids are meant to pave the way for a wholesale “renovation” project aimed at boosting tourism and commerce in the town.
However, a Saudi trooper was filmed walking amid the ruins in al-Musawara pointing to the aftermath of the destruction and admitting that the operations were meant to obliterate the cradle of the anti-regime activism in the country.