Sa’ada clashes continue, efforts fail to assess human situation [Archives:2008/1125/Front Page]

January 28 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Jan. 30 ) Government troops attacked several areas of Haidan district in armed confrontations with Houthi supporters Tuesday, thereby hindering Qatari mediation efforts to contain the crisis, according to tribal and media sources from Sa'ada governorate.

They add that army forces fired seven Katyusha rockets at Jeza area from a military site in Malahidh area west of Sa'ada, while Al-Jaoun village in Haidan was subjected to extensive heavy machine gun fire from another army site.

On Monday, military troops resumed operations in various Sa'ada areas and villages, but mainly in Matra area where Houthi hardliners and their leader, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, are believed to be hiding. Juma'a Bin Fadhel village also experienced heavy mortar strikes from a military outpost in Marran district.4

Indicating that military reinforcements arrived in Sa'ada Monday via two different routes, Houthi sources noted that “Some came via the Sana'a-Sa'ada highway while others came via Haradh highway.”

Media sources report that Juma'a Bin Fadhel continues witnessing fierce clashes between army detachments and Houthis, although such clashes reached their climax earlier this week.

The same sources maintain that Houthi supporters attacked military outposts in Juma'a Bin Fadhel village earlier this week, seizing three army positions after troops evacuated; however, a military source denied such report to Al-Ayyam daily newspaper.

“Houthi followers attempted to seize some military positions and raided one on Sunday,” the military source stated, “The commander of the site was killed and four other soldiers injured in the raid, but other troops later retook the site after extensive clashes through Monday. More than four Houthi loyalists were shot dead in the clashes.”

Local sources confirm continued fighting and exchange of attacks between the two sides, adding that dozens on both sides have been killed or injured through Tuesday evening, but no reports have indicated the exact number of casualties.

Security and military troops have increased their road checkpoints Monday and Tuesday, most notably on the roads and mountains between Majaz and Sehar districts, in order to prevent any supplies or reinforcements from reaching Houthi supporters.

This comes after several security checkpoints failed to discover which road three Houthi vehicles – loaded with huge quantities of weapons and ammunition – traveled from Dhehian to Haidan, according to reports released by security monitoring centers. Such reports reveal that the three vehicles entered areas of military and security operations within the governorate.

Regarding the humanitarian situation, Gareth Richards, country director for the international CARE organization, said in an interview with female journalists at the Yemeni Female Media Forum Monday that, “[The]organization faces difficulty assessing the Sa'ada situation because the Yemeni government has prevented non-Yemenis from visiting the restless governorate. As a result, we can't obtain adequate information about the human situation there.”

Richards points out that CARE, in association with other local and international organizations, has exerted effective efforts to help save Sa'ada residents' lives. These organizations have provided those in war-affected areas with food, supplies and medicine.

He further indicates that his organization is paying close attention to refugee issues and currently constructing 100 homes. Once finished, CARE will provide the homes with electricity and water.

At a human rights symposium at the Yemen Times on Monday, Al-Nida weekly Editor-in-Chief Sami Ghalib denounced what's occurring in Sa'ada. “Citizens of various age groups in the governorate are suffering unprecedented human rights abuses,” he said, noting that “Dozens of Sa'ada residents have been forced into exile despite the availability of numerous human rights groups within the government, which aren't responding to this phenomenon.”