Sa’ada war due to break out as mediation committee ceased work [Archives:2007/1102/Local News]

November 12 2007

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Nov. 11) Parliament member Aidarours Al-Naqeeb, also a member in the political mediation committee between the government and the Houthis, said that the committee ceased its work three months ago. The committee also hasn't held any further meetings, nor has any official party followed up and implemented its tasks, he added.

Aidarous also did not rule out a renewal of armed confrontations in Sa'ada because the situation between the two sides is still suspended and they haven't reached a settlement. The committee did not finalize its work, he noted.

He further called on the two sides to dialogue and use their minds, because any outbreak will bring negotiations back to square one.

He continued, saying, “There isn't any communication with Qatar, as it mediates between the two sides. It appears that the fifth war between the Yemeni army and the Houthis is going to break out, especially since the mediation committee has stopped its work and the Houthis seemed to be victorious in the last four wars.”

The state is busy with current events, such as sit-ins and protests taking place in the southern governorates. These events caused the Houthis to seize the opportunity to dig trenches for a new war, Al-Naqeeb maintained.

Regarding the Sa'ada situation, Al-Naqeeb stated, “I don't have any idea about recent events taking place in Sa'ada. I only know what I read and hear from media outlets, indicating that the committee ceased its work when the Qataris left Yemen and the other members separated in the month of Sha'ban. We were optimistic about the ceasefire after great strides were made by the committee as well as the Qatar delegation.”

Media sources confirmed that new confrontations have taken place between the army and Al-Houthi loyalists since the Lesser Biaram holiday.

A local source from Meran district in Sa'ada told media sources that an exchange of gunfire occurred in the Fout area in Al-Sharafat in Meran on Tuesday when Houthi loyalists launched an attack on a military checkpoint called “Al-Sharafa”. Five soldiers were shot dead and three others were injured in the confrontation. Authorities immediately headed to the area using tanks, medium-sized and light weapons. They suspected that Houthis are there.

In a new indication of escalating tension in Sa'ada, media sources mentioned that locals in Bani Muath area threatened last Wednesday to target military vehicles in the area unless the army stopped making developments and building fortifications in populated areas there.

A statement signed by residents of Bani Muath and surrounding areas said, “The army is still standing on our lands after taking them without any legal justification. It is also developing them, occupying the area as much as it can. Soldiers create buildings and walls in populated areas. They also harass locals while on their farms as well as on the roads.”

The statement, published by Al-Eshtraki news web site, also reported that during the weekend, the locals refused to let soldiers spread out over the area, claiming, “They violate what had been agreed upon as well as what the committee had undertaken.”

Residents threatened, “We will be compelled to retaliate against the state's vehicles if our demands are not met. Our property is not to be damaged. If the constitution and law do not protect us, we will protect ourselves.”

Bani Muath, located in Al-Safra district, experienced the fiercest confrontations between the army and Houthi fighters during the fourth Sa'ada war, lasting from Jan. to June this year. It is currently the area where the army is most concentrated.

The Houthis' field leader, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, told media outlets, “Military reinforcements reached Sa'ada on Nov. 6, 2007. They targeted many areas in Sa'ada, including populated areas. Several areas experienced intensive bombing by different weapons, lasting for several days.”

Al-Houthi also denied media claims that his followers attacked soldiers last week, considering it “a smokescreen to hide crimes committed by the government against its citizens.”

He also stated, “The situation is critical in Juma'a Bin Fadhl, where sniper attacks and beatings of locals continue, in addition to the economic siege imposed on the area.”

He accused the soldiers there of trespassing on private property and looting farms as well as confiscating crops.

Al-Houthi claimed that bombardments continue to occur, with different weapons used such as tanks, mortars, medium-size and light machine guns. The Fout area and populated surrounding areas experienced one such incident, he further confirmed.

Survey reports and damage estimates of local property since war broke out between the state and the Houthis revealed 3,375 cases of propery damage, of which 2,900 were reported in the Sahar district alone. Additionally, there were 480 cases in Majaz, 300 in Al-Safra', 293 in Razih, 113 in Saqain and 90 cases in Haidan.

Surveys and damage estimates in the Ghamer, Katabir and Ketaff districts should be completed at a later date, according to Sa'ada's governor.