Amid escalating fightingHouthis’ lockdown of troops enters sixth week [Archives:2008/1168/Local News]

June 30 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, June 29 ) Bloody clashes between the army and Houthis are taking place in more than one Sa'ada area, most notably around the provincial capital where fighting broke out one week ago, tribal sources from Sa'ada said Sunday.

According to the sources, citizens heard the sound of mortar attacks launched by Houthis against 15th Military Infantry Division brigades deployed around Sa'ada city. Houthis are still controlling the Mahdha area despite an army announcement that military troops took over the area.

Other tribal sources in the restive governorate said that hundreds of military officers and soldiers, besieged for the sixth week in a row, said they did not rule out a death toll among besieged army members as a result of the lockdown that has entered its sixth week.

Yemeni Socialist Party-affiliated quoted witnesses as saying that they saw government fighter jets striking the areas of Saifan, Al-Hamma and Al-Heera on Saturday, adding that a man, four women and a child from the same family were killed in the air strike targeting their house.

The Yemeni Army's quoted a Supreme Security Committee's source as saying last week that the army forces cleared Amran's Harf Sifyan district and the areas of Mahdha, Mahadhir and Wadi Al-Jabar in Sa'ada of all Houthi gunmen. The source adds that the army sieged the Buqea road that leads to Sa'ada city and that many military and security units are successfully clearing Houthis from the Mirran area. It also said that the military forces arrested many Houthi loyalists and seized control of their arms and explosives.

The army's website reports that the army scored various victories in its fight with Houthi supporters, adding that it launches repeated offensives against Houthis, but did not say anything about the besieged troops.

Some Sa'ada residents complained that Sa'ada city has been suffering from frequent night-time blackouts for more than one week now due to lack of diesel supplies after Houthis blocked the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway, preventing the travel of fuel trucks to the city.

In Bani Hushaish area east of Sana'a, residents of northeastern Sana'a suburbs said they heard sounds of mortars, heavy machineguns and katyusha rockets on Saturday and Sunday morning after a week of relative calm.

The situation indicates that Houthis are still excessively deployed around Sana'a, contrary to a military announcement that troops have taken over all Sana'a suburbs.

In Harf Sifyan, independent and Houthi sources note that fierce fighting between army personnel and Houthi gunmen erupted on Wednesday after the army, backed by fighter jets, tried to seize control of strategic positions along the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.

Human situation continues worsening

According to independent sources from Sa'ada governorate, the Al-Sallam Hospital in the provincial capital, which has been receiving dozens of injured troops everyday since the fifth war broke out, was closed on Wednesday due to lack of energy needed to run the city's electrical generators. Closure of the hospital, built and operated by Saudi Arabia, may complicate the condition of troops and citizens injured as a result of the continuous fighting. The hospital's closure followed the Houthis' blocking of the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway and preventing entry of fuel products and basic commodities into the city.

Human rights groups warned against potential war crimes due to ongoing clashes between the army and Houthis, referring to the mass graves of military troops and civilians in Harf Sifyan.

The U.S.-based Rights and Speech Organization said that the discovery of a disfigured corpse of a Houthi relative named Ali Al-Hamzi by the army may be evidence of mistreatment and execution of war prisoners.

The Committee of the International Red Cross expressed concern about its inability to perform its humanitarian job well during the Sa'ada fighting, warning against abandoning corpses of soldiers and civilians on the ground without burying them or returning them to relatives.

Symposium entitled “Mediation and Peace Options”

Several opposition parties and civil society organizations held a symposium on Saturday entitled “Mediation and Peace Option for Sa'ada” in Sana'a. During the seminar, participants confirmed that serious political will is needed to stop the Sa'ada fighting. They added that the fighting stopped more than once as soon as both conflicting sides reached a ceasefire agreement. According to symposium participants, the official media attributed escalating fighting in Sa'ada to efforts exerted by Iran and Libya, which the seminar participants said was not true. They welcomed the Qatari government's mediation efforts to end the war, pointing out that “the shedding of Yemeni blood is costly” and more reconciliation efforts are needed to stop the fighting.

Parliament member Yahya Al-Houthi, currently residing in Germany, urged President Ali Abdullah Saleh to cease the fighting and bring both conflicting sides to the negotiation table according to the advice of the European Union and the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a. In a statement published by, Al-Houthi said, “We would be grateful if the Qatari government and the European Union moderate a dialogue between conflicting sides in order to reach fair solutions to the crisis. I think that President Saleh trusts the EU.” Al-Houthi said he pays no attention to inauthentic reports published by official media outlets, confirming that armed operations on the ground proceed in favor of Houthis.