Sa’ada residents fear renewal of clashes [Archives:2007/1066/Front Page]

July 9 2007

Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, July 8 ) Tribal and media sources reveal a relative calm is predominates in Sa'ada; however, this calmness is associated with worry and fear among citizens that the clashes between Houthi loyalists and the army will commence in some districts.

Some observers believe such fear is attributed mainly to the non-evacuation of army from the villages and houses belonging to Houthis, together with the arrests targeting youth who supported Houthi made by the army in Razih district and some nearby areas, something considered as a breach of the agreement signed between Houthis and the state.

Similarly, a lot of residents' houses are still seized by pro-army tribes and these tribal forces destroy these houses along with the content of attached farmland. Moreover, the government has not addressed the issue of those displaced by the conflict and this is considered a one-sided implementation of the ceasefire agreement that may lead to the failure of the agreement.

Informed sources hinted that Houthis demanded the authorities to notify them about the arms to be handed over and promised to hand over medium-sized weapons and military vehicles they seized in their battles with the army.

Such developments come after wide campaigns by government and pro-government media speaking of further conditions set by Houthis, in addition to the ten conditions included in the ceasefire agreement.

The sources mention Houthi leaders are adamant in demanding compliance with specified conditions and they want the mediation committee to force the authorities to implement them before handing over their arms, including immediate assessment of damages, compensation of those affected by the war as well as allocating monthly salaries to their affiliates killed since Sa'ada's first war.

Media sources reveal some of these conditions were presented to the Qatari mediation during the war. In turn, the Qatari mediation presented them to the Yemeni government, which accepted some of them, however, it conditioned these demands not to be leaked to media outlets as the implementation of some demands will affect the state's dignity and sovereignty as well as the feelings of soldiers who participated in the Sa'ada war.

The sources indicated that Abdulmalik Al-Houthi set certain conditions dictating the evacuation of the army and their prohibition from entering areas deserted by the Houthis, as well as compensating Houthi members via membership on committees. He also demanded uncovering the fate of those missing or abducted, delaying the hand-over of arms until these conditions are implemented.

However, the Qatari mediation rejected any condition set outside the ceasefire agreement and local sources speak of Houthi demands asking for non-interference of the Sa'ada governor in the committee's work. Another demand by Houthis dictates that Naq'ah area should be left under the control of Houthis and their families as well as allocating 3,000 jobs for Houthi affiliates; however, such information was not confirmed by sources close to Houthis.

Over the last 20 days, the committee has been trying to implement the clauses of the ceasefire agreement's, however, it has been unable so far to make Houthis hand over their medium-sized arms. Now, sources speak of another compromise with the Houthis regarding the second clause, stating the evacuation of Houthis from all areas currently seized by them and their dispersement to Al-Naqah area, located to the north of Sa'ada on the Yemeni Saudi border, where they will amass and hand over their arms.

Nowadays, the committee holds continuous meetings in an effort to reduce the tension and convince Houthi loyalists to respond and implement the agreement's articles.

Despite the fact that the committee gave Houthi a three-day deadline starting as of Friday to descend the mountains and hand over their arms, the two warring parties exchanged fire during night hours in their sites located in Al-Mudawar Moutain and the nearby mountains, but with no causalities.

Tribal sources mentioned the Houthis and pro-government tribesmen are still exchanging fire in Ghamer district, wherein the clashes are non-stop since the announcement of the ceasefire.

Breaching the ceasefire has extended to Hajjah following the infiltration of some Houthi elements into the governorate by the start of the last week. The clashes between tribesmen and Houthis left behind several victims and official sources point out the residents have managed to dispel Houthis from three out of four areas that they [Houthis] seized earlier.

Political activists expressed their sorrow over the statement of the committee supervising the implementation of the Sa'ada ceasefire agreement.

“The statement is imbalanced and bears a number of threats in relation to resuming the war and this weakens the impartiality of the committee and affects the execution of its tasks