Amid indicators of fifth Sa’da war48 people killed, Houthis seize 700 army missiles in renewed clashes [Archives:2008/1155/Front Page]

May 15 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, May 14 ) Bloody clashes between army personnel and Houthi supporters in Harf Sifyan district of Amran governorate killed approximately 40 Houthis and eight soldiers from Saturday until Tuesday evening, a military source said Wednesday.

However, Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra told the Yemeni Times by phone Wednesday morning that the number of Houthis killed in the current clashes doesn't exceed two, denying media reports claiming that 40 Houthis were killed.

Habra claimed that the 40 victims are civilians not connected with Houthis, who were killed by air strikes, mortars and Katyusha rocket attacks targeting their villages in the Harf Sifyan district, located in the vicinity of Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.

With regard to security situation in other Sa'ada areas, Habra noted that army fighter jets, backed by tanks and Katyusha rockets, struck the Ezzan Mountain and nearby areas, and added that the army blocked all four roads to Sa'ada's Mirran district.

According to the Houthi representative, citizens cannot go to markets to buy basic necessities for their families, as the entire Sa'ada governorate is under siege. The tribal leader went on to say that eight brigades of republican and special guard forces are involved in the fighting, in addition to personnel from the First Armored Division and units from marine and air forces, plus central security troops. “It is the second time for republican and special forces to be involved in the government's fight with Houthis,” he said.

“On Monday, Houthi loyalists seized up to 700 portable missiles, along with launchers that have viewfinders to better pinpoint targets, which were being transported aboard military trucks to the war-ravaged governorate via Harf Sifyan area,” a reliable source told the Yemen Times.

The ongoing fierce clashes broke out on Saturday, considered by political analysts and observers as the beginning of a fifth destructive war between the army and Houthis in Sa'ada governorate.

The clashes broke out on Saturday when armed Houthis blocked the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway in an attempt to control military equipment and ammunition but failed to do so. Their repeated attempts succeeded on Monday when they intercepted an army truck and seized a load of arms and ammunition. Until now, the roads there were blocked for Houthis and military forces, but civilians can move about freely.

On Sunday, the Yemeni Defense Ministry accused Houthis of creating obstacles to mediation efforts expended by local and regional teams with the aim of ending the four-year fighting between them and the army. It also blamed them for breaching the Doha-brokered ceasefire agreement that both conflicting sides signed on February 1.

The ministry held Houthis accountable for consequences of such legal violations and irresponsible acts, adding that the group's behavior contradicts law and order.

Regarding the situation in Sa'ada, a military source said that the governorate is calmer and more stable than Harf Sifyan district, predicting that the military operation in Harf Sifyan will cease by the weekend.

Asked by the Yemen Times about efforts exerted by the Qatari mediation team, Habra replied, “The Qatari mediation team leader flew home a few days ago while Gen. Nasser Al-Selaiti, one of the mediation team members, is still in Sana'a but is expected to fly to Doha soon in the days to come.”

Other tribal sources said that the Qatari mediation team informed both conflicting sides that it reached an impasse once again after it received a list from Habra indicating all the areas and positions where the government refused evacuate its troops. Troop withdrawal from these areas is stipulated by one of the ceasefire agreement terms.

The Sana'a-based Specialized Penal Court, concerned with terrorism, sentenced four Houthi followers to death after the public prosecution found them guilty of shooting Ahmad Abdullah Fadhil and Ali Dheifullah Jazea to death and wounding Mohammed Eidha Jarfan and Dheifullah Ali Jamil, all of whom are security officers.

The court verdict reads that the perpetrators conducted surveillance on the victims and then decided to kill them because of the victims' alleged loyalty to the government and strong rejections of Houthi beliefs and ideologies.