New governor, soldiers reassemble for decisive Houthi battle [Archives:2007/1043/Front Page]

April 19 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, April 18 – According to tribal sources, clashes between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists have expanded to include every district in Sa'ada governorate, including Razih district, which is very near the Saudi border.

The confrontations also have extended to include Al-Adhel and Bra'ash mountain areas, together with Al-Ghail Valley east of Sa'ada. Fighting is ongoing in Qahlah Mountain, very near Sahar district, and Badr city, the capital of Ghamer district; however, the sources didn't mention losses on either side.

They further revealed that the crisis reached Razih two weeks ago, although the area hadn't been involved since the beginning of the 2004 Sa'ada war, when hundreds of Houthis were in the district. In return, the Yemeni army, supported by fighters, began attacking villages and positions where Houthis exist, especially Al-Shwarek area and the mountains facing Burkan area.

“The recent tensions have paralyzed movement in the markets and residents, who are filled with fear, have begun digging trenches and caches to avoid air raids as well as mortars and Katyusha missiles fired randomly at the area,” the sources explained.

With Houthi presence in the new districts, most Sa'ada areas have become battlefields, with the exception of only Al-Hashawah and Qataber districts; however, some sources mentioned seeing Houthis in Qataber last Tuesday.

The sources added that Houthi loyalists continue seizing positions in Sahar district south and north of Sa'ada, especially in the northern part of Al-Barakat in Bani Mu'ath and those areas beyond, including Harf Sudan. They further occupy some mountains in Al-Talh, as well as Ghrabah Mountain west of Al-Abqur and the facing Azan Mountain east of Al-Abqur. They also occupy mountains located in the north, such as Al-Farhah, Qahrat Al-Anz and Al-Anbar, which are plateaus with large areas.

Houthis further exist in Birkat Ni'mah, Jabali, Al-Harsha and Dal'an areas, along with the Matarah Mountains, which are the most important areas for Houthi leaders and the final areas of Sahar district.

Beyond this are areas and mountains seized by Houthis in Al-Safra and Baqem districts, together with Al-Gher, Al-Qrush, Al-Hudhn, Awyrah, Al-Mifrakh, Al-Saifi, Zour, Hiran, Al-Masna'ah, Rahwan, Akhilah and Al-Lajabah mountains and Al-Naqah areas and mountains located on international borders. They also have seized part of Magz district northwest of Sa'ada city, beginning with splitting Dhahian city in half, with Yemeni army forces controlling the other half.

Moreover, Houthis control other areas and mountains north of Magz, including Al-Ja'malah, Jarah and Rujuafah areas, together with other plateaus in the district. They also hold important locations in Baqem district, including Um Lila and Shihat Mountains, as well as other mountains to the north and east.

They further control mountains in Al-Safra district's Wadi Nashour, together with L'an and Al-Naq'ah Mountains and areas, as well other mountains east of Sa'ada city, such as Hajar Al-Adhl and Al-Salim.

Ongoing clashes in Dhahian

Confrontations are continuing between both sides in Dhahian, located some eight kilometers north of Sa'ada, but thus far, the Yemeni army hasn't managed to seize the city.

Media sources indicate that fierce clashes are occurring in Dhahian, Al-Saifi and Al-Safra districts, coinciding with other battles in Al-Qal'ah city, the capital of Razih district.

Most of Sa'ada's 15 districts witnessed intermittent battles between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists, leaving large numbers killed and injured on both sides.

Sources went on to say that the fieriest clashes took place in Magz and Sahar districts bordering Sa'ada city, noting that Al-Jumhury Hospital and Sa'ada Al-Salam Hospital no longer are capable of receiving more bodies or injured soldiers, especially as numbers increased markedly during Monday and Tuesday clashes occurring in nearly every Sa'ada district.

In related developments, Sa'ada city continues receiving thousands of soldiers mobilized by the Yemeni government in preparation for a decisive battle on all fronts due to be launched by the end of this week. Forces have been gathered from Al-'Amaleqah Brigade and eight other brigades affiliated with Brig. Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar's First Armored Division.

New Sa'ada governor

Moreover, President Ali Abdullah Saleh issued a republican decree Wednesday appointing Brig. Mutahar Rashad Al-Misri as Sa'ada governor to replace former Governor Yahya Al-Shami due to his objection to continuing the war against Houthis, as some observers believe.

Al-Shami previously reached an agreement with Houthis to halt the war; however, several influential individuals didn't like such an agreement, so they breached the truce and resumed fighting.