Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Houthis offer peace to tthe Saudis

Houthi fighters on a captured tank. 

The leader of Yemen’s rebels has declared the war with Saudi Arabia over and says he will pull his fighters out of Saudi territory. In an audio recording posted on the Internet, the rebel leader, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, said this was a “real chance” for peace between the two sides and called on the Kingdom to accept his unilateral cease-fire.There was no official Saudi response to Al-Houthi’s statement, but Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defense and aviation, said Yemeni intruders would think several times before launching another attack on the Kingdom.
Speaking to reporters after opening a medical conference in Riyadh on Monday, Prince Khaled said: “All border regions (in the south) are under our full control for more than a month.” The minister added that the Interior Ministry’s forces would deal with drug and weapons smugglers and other infiltrators.
He said both Saudi and Yemeni forces are doing their job in protecting the border between the two neighbors. “What had happened was a group of intruders attacked our people. By the Grace of God, we have driven them away. There are still some more and we have surrounded them,” he explained.

The war between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in the north dates back to 2004, but flared up in August 2009 after president Ali Abdallah Saleh announced the beginning of a policy of 'Scorched Earth'. Saudi Arabia was drawn into the war in November after the Houthis killed two Saudi borderguards. The Houthis alleged that they had to enter Saudi territory after the Saudis broke a promise that they would not let Yemeni government troops into the area and attack the Houthis from there.
So far it is unclear whether prince Khaled bin Sultan is telling the truth that the Houthis are no longer inside Saudi territory. Rising Saudi casualty figures -- the last announcement gave the number of133 soldiers killed - seem to suggest that fighting is still going on.

The Houthis posted the video also for another reason: in order to refute Yemeni government claims that Abdel Malik al-Houthi was wounded in battle. He isn't and seems to be in good health. The government claimed twice before that Abdel Malik was killed.

Update wednesday 27/1: Fighting between Saudi forces and Houthi fighters on the border with Yemen has ended, Saudi officials have said, according to Al Jazeera English. A Saudi general said that the Houthi's truce prompted the end of the fighting.   "The battle has ended by God's will. "After they announced the ceasefire they did not fire and we did not have any engagement," Major General Said al-Ghamdi, commanding general of first paratrooper brigade, told journalists in the border area. However prince Khaled bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister, said that his forces had achieved a "clear victory over the enemy" on the Yemen-Saudi border. "We cleansed the area ... Withdrawal was not an option for them," he said."They did not withdraw. They have been forced out."

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