As Hashid tribesmen gather to back governmentSa’ada tribal leaders suggest truce [Archives:2008/1172/Front Page]

July 14 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, July 13 ) Bloody confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists continue in several districts, most notably in Mirran, Mahdha, Al-Jamima, Saqain, Al-Humaidan and Al-Khazaen, with both sides resorting to attack-and-retreat tactics, tribal sources from the restive governorate said Sunday, adding that tribal leaders in the governorate have proposed a truce between the two warring sides.

Houthi gunmen deployed in Mirran district released a statement claiming their complete control of Al-Qaeed strategic military position, once used by Yemeni army personnel, whom Houthis have besieged for nearly two months.

In a previous statement, Houthis maintained that their gunmen are showing fierce resistance in the face of advancing military troops, further ensuring the safety of roads connecting the villages of Houthi loyalists.

According to the same tribal sources, the Yemeni army has continued its intense offensives upon strategic Houthi positions and other villages in Mirran and Saqain districts, employing fighter jets and heavy weaponry in an unprecedented manner since the war first broke out in June 2004.

In Mahdha area near the south entrance to Sa'ada city, Houthis took over several strategic mountaintop positions once used by military and security troops, seizing military equipment and ordnance. No casualties have been reported on either side.

On a side note, unconfirmed reports reveal that army personnel deployed in Bani Muadh on Thursday struck the Ghawya area home of Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's official spokesman, Sheikh Saleh Habra. Luckily, neither Habra nor his family members were inside the house at the time.

“In Amran governorate's Harf Sifyan district, the army launched heavy air strikes against the villages of Houthi loyalists this past weekend,” local sources from the governorate report, adding that the Yemeni army is being backed by members of the Hashid tribe.

In Bani Hushaish, located east of the capital city of Sana'a, the army announced for the second time that it had seized total control of Houthi resistance pockets in the area. The government also announced the establishment of a “Popular Army” comprised of 25,000 recruits, most of who are from the Hashid tribe.

Concerns about Popular Army

Various sources agree that the composition of the new Popular Army has raised concern among military troops, who consider it an insult against them, implying that the government is accusing them of being unable to do their job.

Army brigades in Sa'ada face difficulty dealing with members of the Popular Army and Salafis standing at their side because Popular Army members consider looting of citizens' property as their first objective.

Political analysts warn against forming a Popular Army to back the government in its fight against Houthis in Sa'ada, commenting, “What the government today calls 'a popular army' is similar to 'Al-Akafa Army' during the reign of Imam Yahya, who ruled Yemen before the Sept. 26, 1962 Revolution.”

They express concern that members of this so-called Popular Army may become militias fighting against the state and whose commanders will become war-brokers in the various governorates and districts.

Initiative to end confrontations

Tribal leaders and prominent social figures are meeting to agree on a national initiative to end these most recent ongoing armed confrontations between government troops and Houthi supporters, which now have entered their fourth month.

Tribal sources note that tribal chiefs in both Sa'ada and Amran governorates still are studying the initiative with members of their tribes in an effort to end the destructive war through dialogue. Submitted by residents of the affected areas to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the initiative stipulates a peaceful solution to the crisis in light of the ceasefire agreement both conflicting sides signed this past February in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Another condition for both sides to abide by after the war ceases is delegating national peacekeeping forces to maintain security and stability in the war-affected areas.

According to the initiative, these national peacekeepers should oversee how both parties are abiding by the Doha-brokered peace deal, as well as help the Qatari mediation committee or its representative end the crisis. It adds that the peacekeepers must play a notable role in reconstructing war-affected areas.

Stipulating strong commitment to the Doha-brokered deal, the initiative suggests a presidential pardon freeing all detained Houthi loyalists in exchange for the release of any army personnel or pro-government tribesmen held captive by Houthis.

The initiative further conditions that the national peacekeepers must work according to orders from President Saleh and that military leaders shouldn't intervene in their duties.

It also blames unnamed foreign forces for targeting Yemen's security and unity, alleging that the absence of courageous political decisions to restore trust among Yemenis is responsible for foreign interference in Yemen's internal affairs.