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Yemeni Troops Clash With Rebels


State media in Yemen are reporting sharp clashes between security forces and local fighters in the south of the country and in the north, where officials say 29 Shi'ite rebels were killed in a government offensive.

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Yemeni state-run SABA news agency says the army clashed with rebel activists in the country's south and north.

Military sources say the army fired at Shi'ite rebels in Harf Sufyan as well as on the northern outskirts of Saada city. SANA news agency reported that 29 Shi'ite Zaidi rebels were killed.

Zaidis dominate Yemen's mountainous northwest, but they are a minority in the country as a whole. Since 2004, the rebels have been fighting against what they say is government oppression.

In Monday's offensive, military officials say rebel leaders, including Abdullah Ali al-Qallat, were among those killed. The news agency did not report any troop causalities.

Senior lecturer at Durham University Christopher Davidson says that these clashes go beyond internal conflict.

"For the international community there's enormous significance as well as is the case with most domestic struggles in the Middle East, there's something of a proxy war between Iraq and Iran involved," he said. "There are claims being made that the rebels are being funded and equipped by Iran and also the Shi'ite clerics in Iraq too. "

In southern Yemen, SABA news agency reported that separatist rebels opened fire on troops which prompted the Yemeni army to retaliate.

After the clashes on Tuesday, security forces arrested about 30 people who they say are connected to criminal activity.

There was no independent confirmation of the reports.

The reported clashes are the first since August 23 when a protester was killed by Yemeni police at a demonstration over water shortages in southern Yemen.

Christopher Davidson says the international community should focus its attention on Yemen because of the humanitarian issues that are related to the fighting.

"The United Nations aid agencies have said that thousands of people have had to flee their homes, and campaigns have been raised to get money into Yemen. So there's a humanitarian crisis in the making as well," he said.

Over the past five years, intermittent clashes in Yemen between government forces and rebels have displaced an estimated 150,000 people.