Authority uses force in unprecedented mannerFifth Sa’ada war kills hundreds, destroys lives [Archives:2008/1158/Front Page]

May 26 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, May 25 ) A fifth war between the Yemeni army and Houthis has broken out fiercely in numerous Sa'ada districts, Amran governorate's Harf Sifyan district and Sana'a governorate's Bani Hushaish district, leaving hundreds on both sides killed or injured, tribal sources said Sunday, adding that the war is the fiercest ever since fighting between the two sides first erupted in June 2004.

In Sa'ada's Matra district, believed to be the main stronghold of Houthi loyalists, local sources reveal that government troops have been attacking the area for two weeks, using helicopters, tanks, Katyusha rockets and other heavy weaponry.

The same sources add that the government's troops are facing fierce resistance by Houthis, thereby hindering them in achieving any notable progress on the ground.

Additionally, there are ongoing bloody confrontations between republican guards and Houthis in Dhahian city, located 8 kilometers east of Sa'ada city, but neither side scored victory.

As a result, government forces were obliged to dispatch more republican guard troops. Backed by helicopters, the newly dispatched troops are fighting fiercely with Houthis in several areas of Haidan district.

This latest war has left hundreds on both sides dead and other hundreds injured in a relatively short time period while the Yemeni government imposes an information blackout on battlegrounds after cutting off all wired and wireless communication means, local sources note.

They express concern about the governorate's worsening human situation amid shortages in diesel and gasoline supplies and soaring propane gas prices due to the blocking of nearly all roads leading to Sa'ada governorate.

In Amran's Harf Sifyan district, renewed clashes between army personnel and Houthi loyalists in the area led to blocking the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway following government troops' advancement toward the areas of Heera and Emashia. Houthis then resorted to launching surprise attacks and guerrilla warfare tactics.

The clashes resulted in food shortages, the closure of markets and the suspension of traffic on the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.

The Sa'ada-based Yemeni Socialist Party called on the nation's political parties, civil community organizations and religious scholars to intervene in halting the massive devastation and killing in Sa'ada governorate.

In a statement Friday, the group maintained that the Yemeni government launched military strikes on Dhahian and nearby areas with helicopters, rockets and tanks without warning citizens to evacuate their homes. “This is an unprecedented crime,” the statement noted.

According to the statement, neither women, children, nor the elderly thought they would be targeted by the latest military strikes, being completely unaware that government troops were preparing to destroy their homes and displace them.

The YSP in Sa'ada affirms that such killing and destruction won't help solve the problems or stop the fighting. “Catastrophes, tragedies, devastation, fragmentation and collapse are the only results of ongoing fighting. Only serious dialogue will help tackle this crisis,” the statement went on to say.

The group further warned the authority against continuing its lockdown of the war-ravaged governorate, pointing out that imposing an information blackout and preventing humanitarian groups from approaching affected citizens won't cover up the crimes the army thus far has committed against citizens there.

Symposium in solidarity with Sa'ada citizens

The Arab Sisters Forum held a symposium Saturday entitled, “Together Against the Sa'ada War,” during which participants decided to stage a sit-in next Sunday, June 1, in front of the Presidential Palace, which is due to be followed by other sit-ins at Parliament and the Council of Ministers in an effort to pressure these governmental bodies to intervene in ending the fighting in Sa'ada.

Symposium participants released a statement demanding the authority identify its reasons for breaching the Doha-brokered ceasefire agreement both conflicting sides signed this past February 1.

Their statement holds the authority accountable for a potential human catastrophe in Sa'ada amid the ongoing clashes and obstacles created for relief agencies, thereby hindering them from reaching affected residents.

The statement appealed to both sides to use logic and reason, as well as cease their armed operations in the restive governorate.

Participants further urged all popular and tribal forces to avoid any voluntary or coercive involvement in the fighting, but rather pledge to step up their efforts to end the Sa'ada confrontations and release those detained in various security and military jails for alleged Houthi connections.

Blocked relief

Relief groups working in Sa'ada are unable to meet growing demands for aid and basic necessities from affected residents and displaced families.

Iman Al-Muanqar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, reported that an armed group from Amran governorate blocked the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway last week, creating an obstacle for a relief caravan comprised of five trucks her committee was sending to Sa'ada.

“The armed tribesmen seized control of the trucks while negotiations were being conducted via tribal mediators to release the vehicles,” she recounted, “We're arranging relief projects to be undertaken by the ICRC, but what we need is a safe road to help us reach affected residents.”