Sa’ada war: expanding fronts and tactics, increasing victims [Archives:2007/1040/Front Page]

April 9 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, April 8 – Tribal sources told the Yemen Times that confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists are still aflame in numerous areas of Sa'ada, particularly in Dhahian city, as well as in Magz, Sahar, Saqeen, Haydan, Kittaf, Baqem and Al-Safra districts. And, for the first time, the confrontations have extended to Ghamar, a district bordering Saudi territory.

Some Sa'ada residents mentioned that the capital city of Sa'ada witnessed tough clashes with heavy and medium-sized weaponry last week after Houthi loyalists attacked military sites in Al-Ablah, Al-Sinarah and other nearby positions south of Sa'ada. The Yemeni army responded by attacking areas in Al-Abdeen and Rahaban areas, which are outskirts south of Sa'ada.

Confirmed reports indicate that fighting renewed last Wednesday and Thursday in Al-Safra'a district's Bani Mu'ath and Dammaj. Dhahian and dozens of villages in Al-Talh, Bani Mu'ath and Al-Salem suffered massive damage after being attacked by air fighters and tanks.

Dhahian fighting continues

Some displaced Dhahian locals revealed that hundreds of civilians, including women and children, are still confined in the city because they were unable to leave their homes, partly due to the army siege around the city, in addition to ongoing military action between both warring sides. Thus, they were unable to reach new areas allocated for displaced citizens in Baqem district, which neighbors Saudi Arabia.

“Dhahian is an afflicted city and it's believed that epidemic diseases will spread among locals due to the decomposition of bodies under the ruins of houses. Additionally, falling rains will turn the city into a swamp for endemic disease,” locals warn.

Official sources hinted that some diseases already have spread among displaced citizens, attributing such to overcrowding and air pollution in homes receiving the displaced.

Some soldiers told media outlets, “Fighting is ongoing in Dhahian and surrounding areas. The Yemeni army is unable to reach the middle of the city because Houthis are employing new tactics in their fight against the army.

“Houthis dig trenches and passages from streets into houses or some places outside the city. Such tactics have increased the number of victims among army forces and pro-army volunteers by permitting military men or volunteers into the city's zones and later besieging them with large numbers of Houthi followers,” the soldiers explained.

Hospital overcrowding

Citizens also mentioned that they witnessed helicopters transporting the bodies of dead and injured soldiers to hospitals outside Sa'ada after the city's hospitals became overcrowded with the bodies of dead military personnel and tribal volunteers, in addition to those others hospitalized.

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A source at Al-Salam Saudi Hospital said the victims from March alone were 1,199 personnel, including 139 dead, 61 injured from landmines implanted by the Yemeni army, 56 burn cases and 43 handicapped cases due to falls from high places. The same source added that other victims were transported via helicopter directly to the Military Hospital in Sana'a, in addition to hospitals in other governorates.

Other sources said that Al-Jumhury government hospital in Sa'ada, where pro-army volunteers are admitted, can't hold any more victims; thus, new victims are transferred to other hospitals outside Sa'ada after receiving first aid. However, they didn't specify the number of victims due to an imposed media blackout.

Media sources pointed out that Mohammed Badraddin Al-Houthi was seriously injured during battles that took place last week.

Other Houthi news

In another development, Houthi loyalists admit that they hold more than 70 war prisoners: 50 from among pro-army volunteers and 20 from security and armed forces personnel.

The sources assure that Houthis are ready to exchange the war prisoners for some of their prisoners, which number approximately 1,300 captured on numerous fronts and in several other governorates, adding that most of them have no link to Houthis or the slogans they used to chant.

Yemeni Socialist Party organ reported that numerous scholars, sheikhs, teachers, political and partisan leaders signed a document last Friday afternoon, calling for a peaceful march in Sa'ada city. Participants will call for intervention by wise individuals to halt the war and return the city to its normal life after residents' discomfort with the continuing war, which has suspended their businesses and spread disease, along with displacing residents from their homes and villages.

The document, which is still being signed, pleads with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and all wise men in the country to intervene to help war-affected locals and halt the war, as well as enable them to buy foodstuffs and medicines and lead their daily lives, particularly when their businesses have been suspended and farms damaged in Sa'ada and other districts.

Local authorities in Sa'ada last week detained eight individuals from Muftah district due to their stance on the Sa'ada war. Sources close to the detainees declared that the sons of Muftah district denounce the act, especially since the detainees were arrested without any clear indictment, except studying at Houthi summer camps prior to the eruption of the first Sa'ada war in 2004. The sources added that most of the detainees are underage.