By Nasser Arrabyee/25/08/2009
It's been more than two weeks now since the war erupted between Al Houthi Shiite rebels and the government troops in Sa'ada, north of Yemen.
Hundreds of people have been killed and injured and tens of thousands displaced their houses as a result of the ongoing war in which tanks, artillery, and fighter jets are used.
The leader of the rebels, Abdul Malik Al Houthi refused an offer for peace announced by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on the advent of the month of Ramadan on August 22nd.
It seems that the rebels became stronger than they were in 2004 when they started their armed rebellion to establish a clerical state. And they know now that Saleh's government is facing three major challenges other than this war with them.
The government faces an increasing secessionist sentiment in the south, growing activity of Al Qaeda all over the country, and economic deterioration because of the fall of prices of oil on which the government mainly depends in its expenses.
Al Houthi rebels appear to exploit this difficult situation and keep refusing to recognize the State.
The President Ali Abdullah Saleh, however, seems to be determined this time to rid Yemen of what he called cancer of Al Houthis by rushing their revolt by force. The new in this round of war, which is the sixth round since 2004, is Saleh's full mobilization of the support of the tribesmen from all over the country to fight against the rebels.
The chiefs of the Yemen's two most influential tribes (Hashed and Bakil) declared this week clearly in letters to President Saleh that they would fight with the army against the rebels. Tribesmen have started to send convoys with assistance and volunteers to support the army and help the displaced.
The troops secured the road between Sa'ada and the capital Sana'a where the rebels used to ambush the army supply. After the army's complete control of the mountainous area of Harf Sufyan earlier this week, eyewitnesses said they saw dozens of dead bodies on the sides of the road.
Local sources estimated that more 100 rebels including two field leaders were killed in the battles of securing the roads in Harf Sufyan, about 140 km north the capital Sana'a.
As the air strikes continue on the main strongholds and hideouts of the rebels in Dhahyan, Mutrah, and Naqa'a, close to the borders with Saudi Arabia, the military officials say the army is closing in on these remaining places and the end of conflict "has become imminent".
The rebels, however, depend in their confrontations on the high and rugged mountains of their areas in Sa'ada and also on using tactics of gang wars and ambushes against the troops. Their young fighters are ideologically brain-washed.
Although they deny support from Iran, heavy weapons, like artillery and missiles, and hi-tech communication equipments raise questions where they get such things from. The army seized 6 stores of different weapons this week in Harf Sufyan and some of them were Iranian made.
Yemen and Iran media have been exchanging accusations and denials since the war erupted.
The official Spokesman for the Yemeni government, Minister of Information, Hussan Al Lawzi said Yemen would settle accounts one day with Iran for supporting Al Houthi rebels politically and financially.
"Some media have revealed there is financial and political support for the rebels and saboteurs of Al Houthi especially some satellite channels like Al Alam and Al Kawthar and Tehran radio, and unfortunately everybody knows who finances these channels," the spokesman told reporters.
"These channels commit crime against Yemen, they interfere in our internal affairs, and we will settle accounts with the States responsible for them," Al Lawzi said.
Yemen also denied Iranian allegations aired by Al Alam channel that Saudi Arabia and Yemen had established a joint operation room for running the war against the Shiite rebels.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi denied the accusations and called for a political solution in Yemen saying, "What propaganda or media say is not true."
"We believe the issue ... is Yemen's internal issue and we think there should be a political solution. Bloodshed can not help solve the problems there," Qashqavi told a news conference on Monday.
Qasqavi said: "We have always respected Yemen's territorial integrity and national sovereignty and we want to see peace, stability and calmness in that country."
On their part, Al Houthi rebels said they respect Saudi Arabia and they have no hostile intentions against it and they are not doing a proxy war for Iran in Yemen.
"We are not fighters with any party in the world, and we defy any one to prove the contrast of that, what we are doing is defending ourselves against unjust aggression," said Al Houthi in a letter which was addressed to the people and leadership of Saudi Arabia.
"What's being said in the media are only rumours aiming to make the Saudi regime participate in the war," said the letter which was sent by email from Al Houthi office.
Al Houthi rebels answered to President Saleh's offer for peace on the advent of Ramadan by insisting on saying they want only to return to the Qatari-sponsored deal which was signed early last year in Doha.
President Saleh said in his offer he would stop the war if the rebels withdraw from all districts they're controlling and removing all check points, they established. And they should go down from mountains, and stop blocking the roads and sabotages acts.
The rebels also should hand over all military and civil equipments they seized. They also should clarify the fate of the six kidnapped foreigners, and handing over the kidnapped people from Sa'ada, and stop interfering in the affairs of the local authority.
Saleh said the army would confront the rebels decisively if they refused these six conditions, which are similar to those of the Doha deal. The main conditions of the Doha deal are the rebels going down from mountains and handing over heavy and medium sized weapons and the three top leaders leaving Yemen for Qatar.
Earlier, President Saleh said Al Houthi is racial and willing to rule Yemen by "a divine right" , and that he (Al Houthi) forced the government to build fortifications instead of schools in Sa'ada.
The government has been taking tight security measures in the capital Sana'a since the war erupted in fearing of any possible attacks from Al Houthi sympathizers in the capital.
Two Al Houthi supporters were arrested in Sana'a on Friday while distributing leaflets calling for fighting with Al Houthi .
Al Houthi ignored Saleh's offer for peace and supported a call by the opposition parties for a cease-fire.
The main opposition parties called Tuesday for a cease-fire and for allowing relief organizations to go to the war affected areas to help the displaced. They also said, in the first statement since the beginning of the war, they are ready to participate in any "national efforts" to solve the problem and end the conflict.