Sunday witnesses the fiercest clashesHundreds killed in military operations against Houthis [Archives:2008/1170/Front Page]

July 7 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, July 6 ) For the fourth day in a row, the Yemeni army has been attacking with heavy weaponry and fighter jets several villages in Mirran district and other areas in Amran governorate's Harf Sifyan district, believed to be another stronghold of Houthi loyalists, tribal sources said Sunday, noting that hundreds on both sides were killed or injured.

“During direct clashes between the army and Houthi supporters, army fighter jets dropped bombs on Saturday, but they missed their targets, instead hitting military positions in the area of Mirran, resulting in an increased death toll involving troops,” the sources continued, pointing out that the same mistake was repeated Sunday morning.

According to the sources, bloody confrontations between army personnel and Houthis have continued for many days in the Mirran mountains as the Yemeni army attempts to score a ground victory and seize control of strategic positions in the area. However, despite backing from fighter jets, the army is facing fierce resistance by Houthis.

Backed by Hashid tribesmen, Salafi groups and jihadists, the Yemeni army launched two offensives this past weekend against Houthis after its military tactics failed to prevent necessary supplies from reaching Houthis over the past seven weeks.

President directs forming populist army

As the Yemeni army gathers brigades from various governorates to Sa'ada to wage war against Houthis' main stronghold in Mirran, according to presidential directives, the governors of Sana'a, Amran and Sa'ada have invited thousands of citizens to form a populist army to hinder Houthis' spread in rural areas.

However, other tribal sources disclose that citizens haven't responded to this invitation, despite the fact that the government promised to recruit them into the army, as citizens fear potential involvement in the armed conflict with Houthis in Sa'ada.

The ruling authority is gathering more military forces in preparation for a new war in Mirran, as 1st Armored Division brigades have failed to make progress on the ground since the most recent war broke out in April.

Other brigades from the Abyan-based Amaliqa Military Division have been mobilized to the restive governorate to bolster troops serving in Sa'ada during potential military operations against Mirran district.

Deadly clashes are expected if the Yemeni army decides to raid Mirran where Houthi gunmen are displaying fierce resistance in defending the area, which is their main stronghold. Houthi gunmen in the area have been besieging 17th Military Division troops and their commander since the fifth Sa'ada war erupted.

Human situation worsens

The human situation in Sa'ada city and the surrounding areas continues to worsen, warning of an unprecedented catastrophe, particularly after Houthis blocked the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway and seized Buqea and Marahidh areas near the Saudi border.

Both areas served as crossings for the transport of food supplies and other necessities to affected citizens following the blocking of the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.

According to Sa'ada residents, wheat prices have jumped to YR 15,000 for 50 kilograms in rural areas and YR 8,000 in the city, while propane gas is YR 2,000 per cylinder. The war-ravaged governorate has suffered frequent blackouts due to lack of diesel needed by electrical generators.

Due to the escalating fighting in Sa'ada, thousands of residents have fled to safe areas near the Saudi border, which has created shortages in public services and food supplies.

A Yemeni government source reports that four people were killed Saturday and another six injured when a 14-year-old threw a hand grenade into a group of people in front of the Sa'ada city government complex. The attacker, believed to be a Houthi supporter, died in the incident.

Other fierce clashes have been occurring since last Wednesday in Harf Sifyan district where authorities have gathered thousands of tribesmen to back the army in its attempt to unblock the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway. According to witnesses from the district, dozens of army members, pro-government tribesmen and Houthi loyalists were killed in the clashes.

In the area of Bani Hushaish, located east of Sana'a, witnesses say fighting between Houthis and the Yemeni army continues incessantly.

The most recent clashes between the army and Houthis renewed this past April, with both sides employing various types of heavy weaponry.