Military option seems impossible to end Sa’ada war [Archives:2007/1029/Front Page]

March 1 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Feb. 28 ) Fierce confrontations between government forces and Al-Houthi rebels are ongoing in various Sa'ada governorate areas, leaving behind hundreds of killed and injured, together with immense material losses involving military hardware and both public and private property. However, the exact number of casualties is unknown, as there have been no statements from either side.

The ongoing war also has paralyzed trade and damaged area residents' interests as authorities have imposed more restrictions. Further, transport between Sa'ada and other Yemeni governorates and areas has been congested, with the same applying to telecommunications.

However, since Monday, confrontations have decreased in Al-Talh Mountains and surrounding areas, where clashes peaked during the past week.

Media sources report that since Monday, army forces have intensified their offensives against Al-Naqah and other nearby mountains where the largest number of Houthis congregated following the second war in Sa'ada in 2005. Since then, rebels have dug caves and trenches for themselves and their families.

Moreover, numerous confrontations occurred during the same time period in Al-Habayel area and other mountains in the area of Saqeen, which borders Haydan district, but losses haven't been recorded yet.

According to some observers, the human situation has become very serious, with most villages and areas on the various battlefronts having suffered human disaster. Further, residents can't contact other places or even leave their areas for other locations where security exists.

Additionally, foodstuffs haven't reached the area since confrontations erupted at the end of January.

Several international organizations warn about the Yemeni army's excessive use of power, further warning against committing any crimes that could be considered war crimes. Amnesty International demanded the Yemeni government deal transparently in the war, as well as with civilians or military victims.

According to sources close to the rebels, the continued raiding and use of fighters and heavy weapons by government forces, in addition to the involvement of influential individuals who don't want the war to end, will lead Houthis to expand the war to other Yemeni towns and areas.

In related news, several Sa'ada residents reported that Al-Mahather, Harf Sufian and other locations for the first time witnessed mass evacuations to Sa'ada city and other nearby areas where there are no confrontations after authorities told residents to leave their homes in order to enable government forces to get Houthis out of the area.

Yemeni authorities instituted a media blackout from the end of January and further cut all telecommunications in order to hide what's happening on the war fronts.

Media sources affiliated with the ruling party expressed their disapproval of Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's decision to accept President Ali Abdullah Saleh's call for Al-Houthi rebels to descend from the mountains and participate in the Yemeni political process. They further disapproved of his welcoming a Joint Meeting Parties' statement aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Sa'ada situation.

The ruling party's Al-Mithaq newspaper doubted the existence of any such initiative by the JMP and maintained, “What the five parties [the JMP] have issued is a weak statement that doesn't say anything. They just want to endorse the issue for their political and malicious scores.”

Commenting on the ruling party's upset, a JMP source responded, “Such upset expresses the authority's real dilemma in the war in Sa'ada.”

According to, the source added, “[Abdulmalik] Al-Houthi's welcome of the Joint Meeting Parties' initiative and his acceptance of President Saleh's call to form a political party and hand over their heavy arms invalidates all alleged war excuses and further reveals that the authority is waging war with no aim except to kill and tear up national unity.”

Abdulmalik Al-Houthi issued a Feb. 24 statement announcing his welcome of a JMP statement demanding a peaceful solution to the Sa'ada situation together with national dialogue.

Additionally, his statement denied any link to foreign states, especially Libya and Iran, and warned official media of plunging into sectarian address. “We reject all authority attempts to create sectarian sedition between Zaidis and Shafi'is and assure that we are brothers, irrespective of our doctrines,” the statement said.

For his part, Deputy Interior Minister Mutaher Rashad Al-Misri stated that security apparatuses seized documents carried by some arrested Houthis revealing those who are standing behind them and their links abroad.

In an extended meeting with military leaders and Sa'ada dignitaries on Tuesday, Al-Misri noted, “The documents displayed a dangerous magnitude for sedition and plans against the interests of Yemen and its people.”

He added, “These elements are implementing foreign plans aimed at settling scores over Yemeni land at the risk of Yemen and Yemenis' interests.”

Al-Misri further assured political and military leaders' resolve to root out Houthis after it exhausts all peaceful options.

Yemeni Members of Parliament on Wednesday discussed a request by Justice Minister Jazi Al-Aghbari to withdraw immunity from MP Yahya Al-Houthi, who now is living in Germany. Among the votes, 170 MPs voted in favor of withdraw immunity from him, seven opposed it and one abstained from voting.

Accusations in Al-Aghbari's letter include illegal contact of foreign nations in a way that harms Yemen's economic, diplomatic and political position and further, attempting to incite sectarian and ethical differences between Yemenis.

Additionally, Yahya Al-Houthi, who is Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's brother, conducted numerous interviews with satellite TV channels, radio stations and electronic web sites prior to his departure and at a time when he was among the mediation committee members. In such interviews, he defended the Faithful Youth Organization, describing its followers as the wronged who have right on their side.

Following his departure from Yemen, he began contacting foreign parties to internationalize the issue and further contacted those who call themselves “the opposition abroad” in order to unify their efforts against the state and seek the help of foreign states. He also conducted interviews with television and radio stations and web sites, including Arabia Satellite Channel, Al-A'lam, Nass Press, Marib Press and Al-Wasset newspaper.