Yemeni army resumes Dhahian attacks, human situation worsens [Archives:2007/1038/Front Page]

April 2 2007

By: Mohammed bin Sallam
SANA'A, April 1 ) The catastrophic confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists are ongoing in numerous areas of Sa'ada, with reports of the army implanting antipersonnel mines in many areas as the number of victims rises to hundreds involving both warring sides.

Media sources said army and volunteers waged 10 consecutive defensives last Thursday and Friday to penetrate Dhahian city; however, their attempts failed due to severe resistance by Houthis and their supporters. The battles left dozens killed or injured on both sides.

Al-Ayyam daily newspaper reported that the number of those who have fallen just in Dhahian over the past 20 days is close to the number of victims from the first Sa'ada war, noting that clashes continue there now. The paper further maintained that the 20-day battle in Dhahian represents the pivotal point in the war, as it has lasted for a longer time.

“Last Thursday witnessed ferocious fighting between both sides and turned into a guerilla war. Army forces managed to release more than 120 tribal supporters besieged by Houthis for many days,” the paper reported.

The same source added that the Yemeni army has implanted antipersonnel mines on many fronts, causing death and injury among dozens of Houthis, civilian citizens, military and security personnel and tribal volunteers.

Further, 18 Houthis were killed by antipersonnel mines last Thursday in Al-Hamra area near Azan Mountain situated between Nashour and Al-Talh.

According to observers, the Yemeni army is committing grave violations by using antipersonnel mines, which are banned by international treaties because they leave behind hundreds of handicapped among both civilians and fighters. This is occurring despite the fact that Yemen approved the international treaty banning use of such mines.

Other sources mentioned fierce confrontations in Sahar district's Bani Muath after the Yemeni army waged intense offensives to take the fortified Sudan Mountain, where Houthis have been positioned since the war began.

The source added that battles are ongoing in various areas of Bani Salem, Al-Beidha, Al-Ruzamat, Wadi Nashour, Anq Al-Ghazal, Dhahr Al-Hanash Mountains in Al-Safara'a district and Al-And area near Sa'ada city. Similarly, clashes are occurring in Al-Barakat and Akbarah in Bani Muath, as well as Wadi Rahaban Mountain overlooking Sa'ada city.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni army still is attacking with mortars and tanks Houthi sites in Wadi Dammaj, Al-Ammar, Bani Muath, Al-Salem, Baqem, Kittaf, Haydan and other districts. Unconfirmed reports mention the unintentional attack of Red Crescent camps in Khamas, Takhiah and Al-Mass'ebah areas.

The confrontations have caused hundreds of residents in Al-Salem and Kittaf to evacuate their homes, with more than 18 homes destroyed in Bani Muath alone.

Sa'ada Governor Yahya Al-Shami asserted that the Yemeni army has completely besieged Dhahian, noting that additional forces have been mobilized to the area to reinforce existing forces in order to force Houthis to surrender themselves and their arms and cease their acts against the state.

26 quoted Al-Shami as saying that the Yemeni army has managed to clear Houthis from Bani Muath, Al-Talh and Wald Masoud areas, indicating that many residents have returned to their homes in those areas while others remain in camps set up for them.

He added that army and security personnel are preparing to enter Al-Naq'ah, the last Houthi stronghold. He further pointed out that a team will be formed to estimate damages in Sa'ada governorate, while many charitable societies and civil society organizations are supplying relief and foodstuffs for displaced residents.

Noman comments on wars

Yemeni Socialist Party Secretary-General Yassin Sa'eed Noman commented that Yemen has experienced continuous small wars since 1994, with larger wars being the source for smaller ones, including the Sa'ada war.

“When war was waged upon Hussein Al-Houthi in 2004, the state justified it by saying that he had participated with secessionists in their conspiracy against unity in 1994. Similarly, when we speak about the futility of war and internal conflicts, they say we're favoring them [Houthis] for joining us in the 1994 war,” Noman asserted.

Al-Qirbi on foreign support for Houthis

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi has denied that his visit to Iran has given Houthis the right to appeal to the Iranians, noting that both Yemen and Iran have agreed that Sa'ada is an internal issue and they reject using violence and power to achieve political goals, especially under a multiparty system.

Al-Qirbi also told Al-Waset weekly newspaper, “We should distinguish between official Iranian support and support coming from Shi'ite centers.” He affirmed that material support does come from such centers, but not from the Iranian government. However, he insinuated that both the official Iranian media and those affiliated with such Shi'ite religious centers have shown sympathy toward Houthis.

The foreign minister also indicated that Yahya Al-Houthi is the one who hinted at the existence of Libyan support, as he said following his visit to Libya that the nation sympathizes with and supports them. However, Libyan officials denied Al-Houthi's allegations during their visit to Yemen.

Al-Qirbi maintained that the Libyan Embassy has asked to visit the Sulfi Dammaj Institute to meet those Libyans now living in Yemen and married to Yemeni women. He added that Libya has asked to repatriate them, pointing out that Yemen doesn't oppose such a meeting with them; however, it should be according to diplomatic norms.

Furthermore, the minister denied any involvement of Saudi Arabia in the issue, saying, “It's untrue that Saudi Arabia is supporting Houthis. This is clear from Houthi statements, in which they accuse Saudi Arabia of backing the Yemeni government!”

Al-Qirbi concluded that the Syrians' visit to Sana'a didn't address the Sa'ada issue under an Iranian request, as alleged, noting that such talks were confined to the Arab summit, unifying Arab stances and rejecting Israeli blackmailing.

He further added that Yemen doesn't play around with regional conflicts, but rather warns against such dangerous play: “We believe those who play around with sectarian or racial issues will be burned by their fire. We all should spare the area from such conflicts,” Al-Qirbi urged.