Saleh declares an end to Sa’ada fighting [Archives:2008/1174/Front Page]

July 21 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, July 20 ) President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on Thursday that fighting with Houthi supporters in Sa'ada, Amran and Sana'a governorates has ended. The announcement came during a brief speech he gave while inaugurating summer camps for youths affiliated with the ruling General People's Congress on the occasion of his 30th anniversary in power.

“Dialogue is the civilized means to resolve conflict because dialogue is better than bloodshed,” Saleh remarked, further accusing unnamed political forces of politicizing the issues in a sectarian and racial manner.

Saleh didn't reveal how the fifth war with Houthis ended; therefore, neither did any official source dare to clarify the details. Media reports, once released by Houthi field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on a daily basis, have ceased since Thursday.

Saleh's comments about the end of the Sa'ada war raised numerous questions among politicians, some of whom are convinced that the government and Houthis have inked a political deal beginning with a truce to end the ongoing fighting and unblock the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway following Saleh's purported communications with Al-Houthi, according to reports by various media outlets last week.

Political observers maintain that Saleh has undertaken to begin pulling government troops from Sa'ada villages, releasing detained Houthi loyalists and assessing the war's damage to citizens' property in order to approve compensation for them.

They add that Saleh will accelerate transferring Salafi military leaders, accused of fueling the fighting in favor of foreign parties, from Sa'ada to Sana'a. The president also promised to stop cracking down on Houthi supporters and pardon them, according to observers.

Numerous politicians related with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi confirm that Houthi followers are serious about ending the war and they trust President's Saleh decision, which they describe as “brave.”

“We want the fighting to cease and peoples' suffering to end,” Houthi loyalists were quoted as saying. Displaying their readiness not to tolerate any violations that those opposed to Saleh's decision may commit, they added, “We back President Saleh, who has decided to oversee how both warring sides are committed to the truce.”

Saleh ceased depending on some military commanders who, according to the politicians, were fomenting the fighting and exploiting it for their own interests.

Houthis welcome truce, but remain on full alert

While Houthis welcomed the idea of ending the war, they remained on full alert and hesitant about whether to lift their nearly 60-day lockdown of several military brigades that continued until this past Saturday.

However, confirmed reports reveal that the besieged brigades serving in the areas of Saqain and Haidan were released on the same day, adding that the blockade of the 117th Military Division, commanded by Abdulaziz Al-Shahari, ended the following day.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera satellite channel by telephone from his residence in Berlin, Germany, Member of Parliament Yahya Al-Houthi, Abdulmalik's brother, described Saleh's declaration as “good,” pointing out that his brother's followers have stopped the war on their side. However, he confirmed that some skirmishes continue and many Houthis still are detained, attributing this to “traitors within the army.”

According to Al-Houthi, there is a verbal understanding between President Saleh and his brother Abdulmalik to end the war and pull troops out of Houthi-controlled areas. He indicated that the understanding came after Houthi supporters besieged all of the Yemeni army's strategic positions in Sa'ada.

Official media outlets report that there is widespread popular satisfaction with Saleh's declaration that military operations in Sa'ada have ceased.

The war between the Yemeni army and Houthi gunmen, which first broke out in June 2004, has left thousands of troops and civilians dead, injured or maimed and destroyed citizens' homes and farmlands. Additionally, the Yemeni state has lost billions of dollars in the war.

According to reports by humanitarian aid agencies, as many as 120,000 people have been directly affected by the war and mass exodus has led to the establishment of six refugee camps in Sa'ada sheltering thousands of displaced residents.

A Yemeni non-governmental organization desiring to remain unnamed notes that 20,000 children have lost their fathers, 10,000 have become incapacitated and 6,000 families have lost their breadwinners.