Houthis refuse to abandon mountaintop positions unless troops withdraw [Archives:2008/1138/Front Page]

March 17 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, March 16 ) “Term 7 of the Doha-brokered agreement stipulates that military troops must be pulled out from our villages and farms in order for us to abandon [our] mountaintop positions,” Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times on Saturday.

“It is impossible for us to abandon our positions as long as military soldiers are deployed in our villages and farmlands. This is unfair and illogical,” the tribal leader commented. “There are some people who create obstacles to efforts aimed at reinforcing the agreement by listing conditions and demands, which are not easy to fulfill or achieve,” he further said, hinting to military commanders.

With regard to efforts expended by the mediation committee, local sources from Sa'ada said that the Qatari team started its job Saturday, adding that the team visited Matra and Naqa'a areas to conduct direct discussions with Houthi field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on pragmatic ways to implement the seventh term of the agreement.

Mandated to oversee how committed government troops and Houthis are to the peace deal, the presidential mediation committee discussed during Saturday's meeting the pressing problems hindering execution of the agreement's seventh term.

Presidential mediation committee spokesman Abdu Mohammed Al-Janadi told some media outlets that the meeting, held in Rahban Sa'ada Hotel, did not meet expectations, but the committee discussed several issues related to the agreement's seventh term. According to Al-Janadi, the discussion was a positive step toward implementing the term, as necessary arrangements were made to activate the role of the field teams deployed in the different Sa'ada governorates to see how Houthis are abiding by the agreement.

The presidential committee also mandated another field team to verify whether teachers and students have easy access to their schools, arrange for the displaced families to return home and remove all the military and security checkpoints set up in the Haidan district. According to the committee members, Houthi supporters also set up checkpoints for searching any by-passing vehicles, which field teams were also authorized to remove.

Al-Janadi pointed out that such preliminary procedures are essential to implementing the various agreement terms, including term 7. He added that executing this term is key to implementing the other terms.

Al-Janadi said that the government authorities refused to release jailed Houthi supporters because they fear being involved in new clashes with Houthis, as in 2006 when Houthis refused to abandon their mountaintop positions after their jailed relatives were freed, according to an agreement signed by both conflicting sides.

Al-Janadi noted that the presidential mediation committee's role is limited to overseeing how committed both sides are to the agreement, while the Qatari mediation team, which began communicating with local councilors, commanders of army units deployed in Sa'ada and the Houthi field leader, is in charge of doing other tasks.

Al-Janadi ascertained that Qatari foreign minister assistant Samir Abualanein, Qatari mediation team leader, and other team members met Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on Sunday, as part of attempts to remove any obstacles to the ceasefire agreement. He added that team members are working on bringing viewpoints together with the intention of implementing term 7.

“We are optimistic that such efforts may reach positive results,” Al-Janadi maintained, pointing out that reinforcing the ceasefire agreement requires further effort and patience since the issue is not as easy as some people expect. He regretted that the war left negative consequences over the past five years.

Regarding whether schools had reopened, and teachers and students had returned to classrooms, Sheikh Saleh Habra explained to various media outlets that “citizens are still displaced in valleys and mountains, their villages besieged by the army. Teachers, who fled the war-torn Haidan district, have not resumed their work yet because there are no houses to dwell in and displaced pupils cannot return home.”

Habra went on to say, “Talking about the seventh term and ignoring the other six terms, of which nothing was implemented except for releasing 120 detainees, is a legal violation of the agreement. The government authorities don't consider the 12 minutes with regard to lifting the blockade on Juma'a Bin Fadhil citizens, although Houthis lifted their siege of some military troops in the area.” He added, “Military units don't allow youths to move between the various Sa'ada districts. We don't know why the army commanders behave this way.”

Al-Umma.net quoted one of Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's relatives as denying official media reports that Houthi followers banished teachers and students from 22 schools in the Haidan district. “Our district doesn't have a high number of schools. There are only three schools in our area,” the relative said on condition of anonymity. “This is a big media lie.”

He reacted that the government is responsible for attacking their mosques and schools, as well as firing many teachers and suspending their salaries because its troops used schools as barracks for them in their fight with citizens, adding that teachers and students constitute two-thirds of the citizens so far killed in the fighting.