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Yemen and Saudi Arabia Continue to Battle Houthi Rebels


Yemen says it has recaptured ground from the Houthi rebels in the northern Saada province, while Saudi Arabia says its paratroopers are conducting mop-up operations along the border.

Saudi TV reports that Saudi special forces units and paratroopers are continuing mop-up operations against Houthi rebels in the region of Jebel Dukhan along the border with Yemen. The report said a number of armed rebels were captured.

The report also said Apache helicopters and long-range artillery were used by Saudi forces in the most recent operations.

The Yemeni military says it has recaptured territory from the Houthi rebels in Saada province, along its side of the border. Yemeni warplanes struck rebel positions in both Saada and Amran provinces, overnight.

Eyewitnesses report Yemeni armed forces moved reinforcements from the capital Sanaa into the flashpoint town of Harf Sufyan, where heavy combat took place.

Meanwhile, a top advisor to Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh complained Iran has been aiding the Houthi rebels. Ali Mohammed al-Anisy warns Iran to "stop interfering in internal Yemeni affairs."

In Tehran, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani lambasted Saudi Arabia for attacking the rebels "and killing people during Hajj season," while complaining that the United States was "probably involved in the military campaign, too."

A group of Yemeni opposition parties criticized the government Saturday for allowing Saudi Arabia to allegedly "violate Yemeni sovereignty."

Political Science Professor Ahmed Abdul-Karim Saif, of the University of Sanaa, says the Yemeni political parties "are playing a poker game with the government," but he "doubts if Saudi Arabia is really violating Yemeni sovereignty."

Saif also said material Iranian involvement in the conflict with the Houthi rebels is probably limited, as well, saying, "…remotely, yes, but directly there is a very minor role played by Iran because of logistic issues, and this is a very political dispute. It has nothing to do with religion. But, religious discourse is exploited to legitimize the war or legitimize the different political stances of different parties."

As combat continues, civilians on both sides of the border continue to suffer. Thousands on the Saudi side were evacuated from villages in the combat zone in the past several days.

Saudi Civil Defense corps Colonel Hashim Dawoud Saiqal says his unit has been working to find shelter for the refugees. He says 3,900 people have been given shelter in the Liwa tent-city, while 9,850 have been lodged in furnished flats, and others in private homes. He adds that his men were able to carry out the evacuation in under 48 hours.

Professor Saif says civilians on the Yemeni side of the border are not so fortunate, since the Yemeni government has fewer resources to help the thousands of displaced people.

He says the conflict is likely to get worse and could degenerate into a full-scale regional conflict. He says more will be known after the upcoming visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Muttaqi to Riyadh.

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