Conflict continues between army and Houthis, optimism about mediation success [Archives:2007/1077/Front Page]

August 16 2007

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, August 15 ) Tribal and media sources from Sa'ada revealed that a portion of Sahar district, north of Sa'ada city, experienced armed clashes between army soldiers and Houthi loyalists. These clashes coincided with negotiations between the two parties undertaken over the last two weeks. Both parties began digging trenches and barricades and equipping their sites with weapons, carefully monitoring actions from the opposing side.

Army soldiers shot and killed a Houthi member in Qataber last Wednesday. The incident incited sympathy among many tribesmen, arousing suspicion regarding protection of their lives in the event that they return to their homes, while the state refrains from issuing amnesty according to Al-Dawha agreement.

Media sources stated that Abdul Malik Al-Houthi mentioned the double-cross killing in a message directed to the presidential and Qatari committees last Monday. This was in response to a message delivered by the two committees to the Houthis two days before.

According to the source, the message Abdul Malik Al-Houthi delivered last Monday in Sana'a through a representative contained many inquires about the decree of amnesty as well as the issue of migration from Al-Naqa'h and Matrah areas. The message also inquired about the clashes of Wahsha and Haidan districts and failure to restore stability to the areas before 2004.

Field sources in Wahsha district informed that there are army troops, supported by hundreds of tribesmen, preparing a second attack on Shallal Mountain as well as neighboring mountains where Houthi loyalists are taking cover.

Ahmed Al-Sharafi, one of the Houthi field leaders, in a statement published by, stated that the army is supported by hundreds of tribesmen from different areas. Last Thursday, the army launched an attack on Al-Mashaf Mountain, resulting in mass injuries and casualties on both sides. Houthi loyalists were subjected to a mortar attack last Tuesday. Those attacked did not exclude women, children and livestock, according to his release.

Despite application of the ceasefire agreement in Wahsha district, Al-Sharafi stated that conflict in the area has not subsided. This is due to the army's continued attack of Houthis, despite Houthi compliance with the ceasefire agreement. He went on to say that the army and its tribal supporters continue to breach agreement conditions.

He also added that the army laid siege on people seeking shelter in Shallal Mountain and neighboring mountains. The siege has enclosed the area for seven months, interrupting the supply of food and medication to the region's villages.

Al-Sharafi stated, “We are sure that the army is preparing during the next hours for a gross massacre, however, we are ready for them,” adding, “We are still sticking to our commitment in terms of ceasing fire preventing bloodshed of Muslims. Though they continue setting fire at us, we did not retaliate in the last period. But we will be obliged to defend ourselves in case they carried out their creep toward the mountain.”

Al-Khaleej newspaper revealed that the leader of the Houthis presented a schedule to resolve the conflict between his movement and the state. This schedule lasts for 23 day in lieu of the 20-day timetable specified by the Qatar-sponsored committee assigned to implement the ceasefire agreement.

In a plan delivered to the chairman of the Qatari-delegation, Nassir Al-Ateeyah, along with other members of the presidential committee, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi declared, “The mechanism of his plan must consider the suffering of people. This mechanism must have a positive role in reducing the suffering of thousands of evacuated people. These people must have the priority to get benefit from the agreement as they were the first disadvantaged people in the war.”

Al-Houthi's 23-day timetable included five days in Haidan district. The plan called for the ceasing of fire in Juma'at Bin Fadhl, Thwaib and Jaza'a areas, in addition to ceasing the construction of barricades, descending from mountains, evacuation of the army from currently seized homes and property and returning control of villages and farms to citizens. The army must also allow displaced people to return to their villages and homes, providing those whose homes were destroyed with tents and other necessities as well as releasing detainees.

The above conditions were also to be applied to Saqeen, Razih, Kataf, Qataber, Baqem, Majaz, Al-Safra' and Sahar districts.

Additionally, Al-Houthi stated that he is ready to release detainees belonging to the army in return for the release of his followers. He hoped that the committee will review lists, which include names of mountains and mountain passes belonging to Matrah and Al-Naqa'a areas. He demanded the recording of missing people as well as compensation.

Media sources revealed that the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) approved a new operation to provide food assistance to 36,000 people displaced by the conflict in Sa'ada governorate in North-west Yemen. The three-month operation, which is valued at $1.3 million is a continuation of the organization's previous two-month operation, through which some 20,000 displaced received assistance during June and July.

The International Red Cross, in a report published at the outset of the current month, criticized what it described as a “security restriction” imposed on its movements in Sa'ada, limiting its assistance to displaced people inside the city limits and neighboring areas.

“Through WFP presence in Sa'ada and our assessment of the humanitarian situation, we came to the conclusion that food assistance must continue; however, we anticipate that during this period, a durable ceasefire agreement and a political solution to the crisis would be reached and maintained. This would enable the displaced persons to return to their homes and resume their regular livelihood activities,” Mohammed El-Kouhene, WFP representative in Yemen, stated.

The amount of displaced people increased in Sa'ada due to continued conflict in the area over the last one month. This is attributed to renewed obstacles in implementing the ceasefire agreement.

According to local sources, governmental concern for displaced people is non-existant. In the agreement signed by the government and Houthis, and sponsored by the Qatari delegation, authorities did not stipulate any conditions for returning displaced people to their homes or compensating them for damages incurred.

Forty-seven prisoners detained due to the Sa'ada crisis started an open food strike, protesting against the continuation of their detainment for months without just cause. The prisoners live in miserable conditions inside the prison. stated that the 47 detainees in Al-Nussairiyah city in Hajah continued their strike for the second day, aiming at pressing the authorities for their release. They have been imprisoned for more than six months without prosecution or accusations directed against them. They were all imprisoned by security forces. Authorities detained hundreds of citizens in a number of governorates, most of them students studying legal sciences in Zaidi schools or affiliated with the Zaidi sect. Detainees are said to have no relation to the war.

Al-Nussairiyah detainees are being housed inside narrow and unsanitary cells. The prison administration does not give them enough food. Their relatives cannot visit them. There are young detainees among them. Most of the detainees belong to districts of Hajah governorate. Their relatives have appealed to the human rights organizations to assist in the release of their illegally detained relatives.

The Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms announced its solidarity with the detainees, considering detention without any direct accusation a breach of law and constitution. The organization demanded the release of the detainees, expressing its worries about the state restriction of freedom of thought and attack of the Zaidi sect. It also invited all civil society organizations to stand against such irresponsible actions, demanding particular solidarity with the relatives of Hajah detainees.