Fears of potential wars in Hajjah and Dhamar [Archives:2008/1166/Front Page]

June 23 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, June 22 ) The security situation in Sa'ada is critical, local sources say, adding that for the third day in a row, Houthis are intensifying their attacks against government facilities in Sa'ada city, including a telecommunications building.

The same sources note that other clashes between Yemeni army personnel and Houthis are occurring in Mahdha area, a kilometer south of Sa'ada city.

According to a report released by Houthis on Saturday, dozens of military vehicles backed by 15th Division troops attacked Mahdha area, but Houthi fighters kept the troops from taking the area.

The report also revealed that Houthi gunmen destroyed six tanks and two armored vehicles, while local sources note that hundreds were killed or injured on both sides.

Currently a battleground for both conflicting sides, Mahdha is an even area that Sa'ada residents hadn't believed would be a ground for fighting between the Yemeni army and Houthi followers.

Houthi fighters deployed in the area have shown fierce resistance and hampered the army's attempts to seize control of it.

The Yemeni army-affiliated 26September.net quoted a military source as saying that government troops have cleared Houthi gunmen from Mahdha area in strong confrontations incurring heavy Houthi losses.

The source stated that military troops were involved in strong confrontations with Houthis in the area Friday evening, pointing out that the army also cleared Houthis from Amran governorate's Harf Sifyan district.

The Houthi report said Yemeni army troops have been striking Harf Sifyan district for three days, while Houthis destroyed much military equipment and killed a dozen soldiers.

Other tribal sources reiterate that clashes between Houthis and the Yemeni army have been occurring for the second consecutive month in Bani Muadh district's Masna'a village. Houthis says their gunmen destroyed several military vehicles that were driving toward a military position in Qahrat Abu Raas area, which they've been besieging for several days.

According to the Yemeni Socialist Party-affiliated Aleshteraki.net, a Houthi gunman from Taiz governorate on Monday attacked a police station in Sa'ada, killing several soldiers before being shot dead. This was the first time to see individuals from farther governorates backing Houthis in their fight with the government.

Several Houthi relatives indicate that they receive support from governorates such as Taiz, Al-Dhale' and Ibb, which have Shia residents. For instance, Abdulwahid Al-Sharaabi of Taiz is said to have played a prominent role in Houthis' fight with the Yemeni army during last year's fourth Sa'ada War.

Media sources allege that Al-Sharaabi assumed the role of leader for a Houthi front in Dhahian city during Houthi confrontations with the army in 2007.

Other fierce clashes occurred Thursday in Amran's Harf Sifyan district after Houthis seized control of Saifan area on Wednesday and dispatched more gunmen in Shibariq Valley as part of their efforts to besiege the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway. Local sources from Harf Sifyan said the highway remained blocked as of the time of this writing.

Hashemite families suffer discrimination

In Sana'a, police have heightened security measures, searching vehicles in several areas of the capital city and inspecting the identity cards of their occupants amid fears of Houthis' potential entry into the city.

Police have imposed firm measures against any Hashemite families, alleged to be affiliated with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's Shia sect, and this has made these families feel that the Yemeni government is encouraging discrimination against them.

Houthis revealed on Thursday that several gunmen loyal to them attacked a military position at the northern entrance to the capital city near Sana'a International Airport, according to Sana'a sources, who say residents heard sounds of the attack at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Another Houthi report said the attack targeted a military position and checkpoint at the northern entrance to the capital city, alleging that Houthi fighters destroyed a military tank, burned an armored vehicle and killed several soldiers.

Houthis dig trenches

Houthis began digging trenches and creating strategic mountaintop positions in various areas of Hajjah governorate, west of Sana'a, well-informed sources said last weekend, adding that Houthis are preparing to wage a new war against the government in Hajjah with the intention of reducing government pressure on Houthis in Sa'ada and Amran.

In Dhamar, Houthi loyalists began entrenching on mountaintops and fleeing security crackdowns targeting all Shia residents in the city, which is only an hour's drive from Sana'a.

Sources from Dhamar say that Houthi loyalists in the governorate are mobilizing food provisions and arms to mountaintops around the city, predicting that a potential war between the Yemeni government and Houthi supporters may break out in Dhamar.