Houthis resist attacks, Fierce confrontations continue [Archives:2007/1059/Front Page]

June 14 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, June 13 – Tribal and media sources reveal that the situation in Sa'ada is catastrophic and further, the bloody clashes between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists have widened to include nearly all governorate districts, as the army was unsuccessful in its offensives launched last week, despite human and material superiority.

The sources add that Houthis fiercely resisted attacks by government forces and still hold their positions in Razih district, particularly Al-Azd Mountain, Al-Shouraq and Qataber, as well as Shohatah, the most important area in Ghamer district.

Fierce confrontations also continue in most northwestern areas, together with areas in the middle, and the number of casualties is huge. Dozens of soldiers and pro-army volunteers were killed on Al-Farkh hill located in Al-Saifi when the Yemeni army attempted to take over the hill last Sunday. In a statement, Houthis noted that the plains and mountain passes are full of the bodies of army affiliates and volunteers; however, independent sources neither denied nor confirmed such information.

Media sources revealed last Tuesday that Yemeni army helicopters raided various Houthi sites in Kittaf district's Al-Salim area and other areas in Al-Safra. One such raid targeted a house east of Sa'ada governorate, killing Houthis who were inside it.

Fighting renewed on Dakhshaf Mountain in Al-Amar, leaving dozens killed and injured. Both sides exchanged control of the mountain four times, but Houthis now seize it.

Regarding the extension of confrontations, local sources from Al-Jawf, which neighbors Sa'ada governorate, mentioned that Houthi elements opened a new front there by attacking a Central Security checkpoint, which left two soldiers dead and injured five others.

Some observers believe that the Yemeni army's intensifying of the war over the past two weeks will have passive results on mediation efforts aimed at stopping the war; thus, Houthis will distrust the mediation committee and demand more guarantees.

They further assure that the Yemeni government is doing its best to achieve a material victory before the mediation committee reaches a potential ceasefire. This has become clear over the past few days in the overstating statements by some officials regarding Sa'ada Governor Mutahar Al-Misri's declaration last Saturday claiming that Yemeni armed forces seized Ghamer district, freeing it from Houthis, as well as capturing many Houthi elements, which is counter to field reports.

Media sources indicate that several tribes have voiced resentment at the Yemeni army compelling their volunteer sons to lead the battles against Houthis, with a sheikh from Dammaj questioning Al-Misri about whether the army came to defend the locals or vice versa.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni army launched a widespread arrest campaign during the past two weeks against military men, civilians and those displaced over links to Houthism. A pharmacy owner also was arrested for selling medicine to Houthis.

Similarly, Yemeni armed forces raided homes and Sa'ada city cemeteries in search of Houthi elements after receiving information that Houthis had infiltrated the city; however, it soon was clear that the information was baseless.

On the political front, both the opposition and the authority exchanged accusations regarding the ongoing war, with the crisis heightening as opposition parties voiced rage over the continuing war in Sa'ada and its effects on the people, stability and the economy. In retaliation, the authority accused the opposition parties of being pro-Houthi and further, providing them political and media support.

In a recent meeting of their leaders, the Joint Meeting Parties discussed the Sa'ada crisis and national dialogue. They requested halting the war and discussing its reasons and consequences.

They also criticized the ruling party's media and the authority, holding it responsible for what's happening in Sa'ada and demanding they open Sa'ada to national and foreign media in order to record the reality and reveal the volume of the catastrophe there.

Fathi Al-Azab, head of Islah Party's Media Department, urged differentiating between political reforms and the events in Sa'ada, maintaining that political reforms require a national consensus, whereas the Yemeni authority is demanded to open up Sa'ada to media outlets to cover the events there.