Despite President Saleh’s order, Sa’ada war continues [Archives:2007/1053/Front Page]

May 21 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, May 23 – Informed sources reported Wednesday that most Sa'ada districts have been witnessing calm since Monday evening, with no battles being fought Tuesday on most war fronts; however, fierce confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists continued in some areas of Baqem district, located north of Sa'ada governorate and very near the Yemeni-Saudi border, after Houthis attacked a military site there.

Last Friday, Houthi followers managed a victory over the Yemeni army by seizing Al-Nadhir, one of Razih district's most important cities. Additionally, they took over Haram and Al-Damagh Mountains in the same district, as well as Al-A'r Mountain in Baqem district. The battles left dozens killed and injured on both warring sides.

Further, other sources report that Houthis waged large offensives on military sites in Dhafar area located on the outskirts of Sa'ada city and Al-Daqiq Mountain near Al-Saifi.

The same sources add that military units began withdrawing on several southern, western and northern war fronts after Houthis waged violent battles to recapture sites the Yemeni army occupied in the middle of last week.

Several areas in Sahar witnessed violent clashes between army and pro-army volunteers on one hand and Houthi loyalists on another, with the fiercest clashes being fought in Al-Saifi areas. Similar confrontations occurred in several areas of Al-Talh and nearby, felling dozens of victims.

Media sources report that Yemeni army forces waged a fierce attack on a mountain Houthis seized in Al-Safra district east of Sa'ada, leaving dozens injured on both parties.

The army also attacked areas in Kittaf district's Al-Salim area, with the offensive ending Monday morning. Katyusha missiles and mortar fire were exchanged in Dhahian city and Magz area throughout the day, but stopped by nightfall.

Sources also note that, “The army is unable to pass obstacles hindering its advancement in mountainous areas and sturdy forts where Houthis are positioned, such as Al-Ard Mountain in Mashraqah area, hills located atop Sha'arah city and other mountains located east of Sha'aban and Rahat areas, together with Bani Mu'een Mountain.

Meanwhile, a military source denies allegations that the Yemeni army intends to use chemical weapons in some impenetrable areas. The Armed Forces-affiliated assured that such information distributed to media outlets by Member of Parliament Yahya Al-Houthi, now living in Germany, is baseless.

The source went on to say that such allegations are within the context of lies and fabrications Al-Houthi has announced in an effort to defame Yemeni security and military institutions. “Such weapons exist only in the imagination of Yahya Al-Houthi and the like,” the source concluded.

Media sources indicate that the Yemeni army leaked this information in an effort to discourage Houthis and force them to surrender. Sources close to Houthis reveal that they are following military tactics by covering their noses and mouths with wet pieces of cloth, together with masks designed for such end, in preparation for possible chemical weapons use by the Yemeni army.

For his part, President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced suspending military operations on Sa'ada for one day on the occasion of Yemen's reunification. The resolution came during Tuesday's festivities staged in Ibb, some 190 km. from Sana'a.

Saleh noted that he made the decision because of Yemen's celebration of its 17th reunification anniversary. He also showed readiness to dialogue with Houthis and further indicated that religious scholars have arrived in Sa'ada to inform Houthis of their resolutions; however, he declared that he ahs received no demands from Houthi loyalists, whom he describes as “rebels and dissidents.”

The scholars committee told media outlets that they won't meet directly with Houthis; rather, they'll send envoys to Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and Abdullah Aydhah Al-Ruzami to inform them of what's contained in their statement and await a reply, upon which the committee will decide its stance.

An official source in the prime minister's office expressed his sorrow over the Joint Meeting Parties' refusal to accept the invitation extended by Prime Minister Ali Mujawar to all Yemeni political parties to inform them about the developments of the Sa'ada war. The JMP declined the invitation, justifying it by maintaining that the government isn't serious.

The same source told Yemen's Saba News Agency that Mujawar extended an invitation to all Yemeni political parties and organizations in order to inform them of developments in the Sa'ada crisis, according to President Saleh's directives. He maintains that this also displays the government's keenness to keep all Yemenis apprised of national issues.

He noted that the invitation was sent to all party leaders last Thursday, May 17; however, JMP leaders requested postponing the meeting until Saturday. “Half an hour before the Saturday meeting, we were surprised at the irresponsible statement by JMP spokesman Mohammed Al-Sabri, who justified the parties' non-attendance due to lack of seriousness on the government's part to address the Sa'ada issue.”

He concluded, “Undoubtedly, the Joint Meeting Parties have isolated themselves, not the government, and are avoiding a national duty, which they shouldn't do under any justification.”

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At a meeting with several political organizations and pro-government parties on Saturday, Mujawar hinted that Houthi rebels have established what's known as the Ja'afri-Shi'ite Association following the second Sa'ada war led by Badraddin Al-Houthi, noting that Abdulmalik Al-Houthi is now in charge of political matters and Al-Ruzami is the group's military leader.

He further asserted that security and military forces foiled an attempt by Houthi rebels to expand military operations to other governorates, especially as the Yemeni army and security forces have intensified their attacks on Houthis in Sa'ada.

Moreover, Mujawar emphasized that what's happening in Sa'ada is targeting Yemen's republican system and constitutional legitimacy, recalling the revolt movement dating back to 1982; however, it took a different shape following the 1994 Civil War and in 1996 under the name of the Faithful Youth Organization. Considered part of political activism, the organization was allowed to act like all other civil society organizations.

Regarding human and military losses, Mujawar said the first and second Sa'ada wars led by Hussein Al-Houthi claimed the lives of 743 soldiers and injured 2,558, with material losses reaching $600 million.

Al-Haq Party Secretary-General Hasan Zaid refused to call the scholars committee that arrived in Sa'ada earlier this week a mediation committee, telling NewsYemen web site that they are simply messengers sent to inform Houthi rebels about the statement issued at the scholars' conference, which stipulates Houthis handing over their arms and surrendering themselves to the state.

Zaid ruled out a positive response to the statement by Houthis, particularly given the escalating war, noting that even those Houthis who are considering surrender can't act on such desire.

He further assured that the scholars committee's arrival must be timed with announcing a cease-fire and ensuring the safety of roads, maintaining that under current conditions, no one will accept meeting with the committee or believe in having a solution to the problem.

Replying to a scholar who stated that scholars will amass people from all Yemeni areas to fight Houthis if they don't respond positively to the scholars' statement, Zaid declared that whoever says this aims to foil President Saleh's wish to stop the bloodshed, adding that Yemen doesn't need to amass its sons for such a battle because the Yemeni army is capable of ending it He also pointed out that Yemen should resort to reason in order to save souls and resources.

Yemeni scholars stressed the importance of giving what they describe as “rebels” a last chance to give up their revolt against the nation, lay down their arms and surrender to the state.

The statement issued by the Yemeni scholars conference, which Zaidi and Sufi scholars did not attend, criminalized any act of revolt against the Yemeni state. The scholars further demanded the state handle such acts of sedition wisely and work to lessen the sufferings of injured and displaced citizens.