War continues, government warns media about coverage [Archives:2007/1031/Front Page]

March 8 2007

By: Yemen Times Staff
SA'ADA, March 7 ) The Sa'ada war has entered its second month, with all information indicating its expansion in geographic, social and sectarian contexts. Casualties are increasing on both sides, together with the number of residents displaced from their areas and villages, and food supplies into the governorate are cut off.

Sources mention that fierce confrontations continue between the Yemeni army and Al-Houthi loyalists on various fronts, felling dozens more victims within the past few days.

A military source mentioned on Tuesday that the human losses among Houthis amount to 160, including leading elements, as well as 40 unidentified bodies. He added that there are numerous injured, while many others have been arrested in various areas.

Al-Sahwah.net quoted local sources as saying that more than seven civilians were killed and another four injured in fierce clashes in Sahar district.

The source also revealed that five military personnel were killed and another three injured during confrontations while combing Bani Muath area on Monday morning.

It added that military leaders met with sheikhs and dignitaries from Majd and Razih districts earlier this week seeking their help in fighting and eradicating Al-Houthi supporters.

During the meeting with dignitaries from Razih – the only district not witnessing confrontations since the first war in 2004 – the military leaders asked locals to protect their district and prevent Houthis from penetrating it, maintaining that the armed forces will take on the responsibility if locals fail.

The demands were presented after leaked information mentioned that Houthi groups are present in the district, according to the sources.

In related news, Sa'ada's second largest city of Dahian seemed deserted after locals evacuated the area to meet an army deadline giving them just 48 hours before its entry in search of Houthi loyalists or weapons.

Dahian locals earlier warned about entering their city, considering it an attempt to loot citizens' property by armed tribesmen summoned from outside the governorate to assist Yemeni armed forces in their war against Houthis.

The sources also indicated that government forces imposed a buffer between Matara area, which is dominated by Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's supporters, and Al-Naqa'ah area, the stronghold of Abdullah Aidhah Al-Ruzami, the second man in the Faithful Youth Organization, which is banned from exercising political activities in Yemen.

According to sources, the buffer between the two areas will enable Yemeni armed forces to wage a knock-out offensive against Houthis.

Media war

Al-Thori official newspaper last Friday warned satellite channels, news agencies and newspapers about publishing any statements by Yahya or Abulmalik Al-Houthi or their followers, considering it a counter act against Yemen and support for terrorists.

Media sources report that more than 3,000 tribesmen from Al-Ausimat and Bani Sureem, parts of Hashed tribe, were called upon by a local sheikh last Sunday to fight in Sa'ada. The sources also added that Kharef sheikhs declined to accept Sheikh Sadek Al-Ahmar's call to participate in the war.

Official media distributed what it terms a fatwa by scholar and Judge Mohammed Ismail Al-Amrani, calling on Yemenis to fight in Sa'ada and justifying the killing of Houthis. The fatwa is similar to one Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani issued during the 1994 war with the Socialist Party.

Several reports and analyses point out that the authority has resorted to fatwa and jihad to involve tribal groups from inside and outside Sa'ada in the war against Houthis, after army and security forces were unable to defeat them.

Citizens from Sa'ada and Dahian told media that over the past few weeks, thousands from Dahian and other nearby villages have left their homes for Sa'ada city and other areas while the governorate witnesses a critical shortage of foodstuffs and provisions as the government has cut off supplies to Sa'ada and prevented relief organizations from entering.

Further, numerous citizens in various governorates have been arrested over the Sa'ada events, with local sources mentioning that more than 15 citizens from Al-Mahbeshah and Kahlan Al-Sharaf were arrested for links to Al-Houthi.

The sources added that seven military vehicles have been stationed in Kahlan Al-Sharaf's Aqsur area for more than a month demanding 10 locals linked with Al-Houthi.

Sa'ada Jews

The Yemeni government summoned those Jewish families that Houthis dismissed from their homes in Al-Salim to Sana'a and provided them private housing at the expense of the Economic Military Corporation to escape the war.

Newspapers close to the authority hastened to announce this step by the government, an act interpreted as a message to the outside world – especially the United States – to avoid international pressure on the pretext of suppressing the Jewish faction.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper mentioned that the Jewish families, amounting to 45 people, were transported to Sana'a by special plane and given government apartments after preparations made by high-ranking officials. It added that some Yemeni Jews told their friends in Israel via phone that they are receiving government salaries and that their situation has begun to improve.

Aleshteraki.net reported that the Jews earlier declined to reside in housing meant for marginalized factions in Sa'wan zone of Sana'a, especially those working in the cleaning sector; thus, the government was forced to give them luxurious apartments in Tourist City, a zone near the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a.

Observers believe the issue reflects the Yemeni government's duality in dealing with its citizens, as it moved the Jews from the war-torn areas and provided them security, while others are kept there like firewood.