Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Renewed heavy fighting with Houthis in N-Yemen

Tribesmen in northern Yemen.

At least 33 people have been killed in several days of clashes between government-backed tribes and so-called Houthi rebels in Yemen. The fighting started after a government-allied tribe attacked attacked a Houthi stronghold in the northern province of Amran, local officials and tribesmen said.Medical and security officials told the Associated Press that 12 rebels and 21 tribesmen were killed. According to the Houthis the Yemeni army supported the tribal fighters, but Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, blamed the clashes on zealous supporters from each side.Since the government and rebels signed a ceasefire in February several clashes have taken place, but this week's skirmishes were the heaviest.
The fighting came at the ame time that the Houthis on Monday stated their support for a recent agreement signed between the country's ruling party and the opposition, aimed at creating a national dialogue between Yemen's political rivals. They said that the agreement, sealed between the ruling General People's Congress and a coalition of opposition parties, will pave the way for a "comprehensive dialogue which excludes no one". It is said to be aimed at finding ways of implementing a February 2009 deal for national dialogue and postponing a parliamentary election until April 2011 to allow time to amend Yemen's constitution.

On Tuesday, the Houthis also voiced support for an offer by the emir of Qatar, who visited Sanaa,  to help consolidate the truce between them and the Sanaa government. The conflict with the Houthis first broke out in 2004. housands of people have been killed in the conflict which first  broke out in 2004, with the last battle ending in a February truce.

 Earlier, at the beginning of this month, the government and the Houthis revealed that they had signed a 22-point agreement which involves the Houthis carrying out the six steps that the government decided upon earlier to stop the war in Sa'ada and Harf Sufian in Amran.The Minister of Local Administration and the Deputy of the Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs, Rashad Al-Alimi, visited Sa'ada governorate last month and approved the agreement.
 The government asked Abdulmalek Al-Houthi (picture)  to make his supporters return to their own areas and promised that security forces would not stop them. It also stipulated that Houthis must not hide in mosques, schools or government establishments. The government demanded that Houthis not intrude upon the local authority's affairs and stop arresting people.
Both the Houthis and the government promised to release all of Sa'ada's war prisoners and to stop creating road barriers. For their part, the Houthis agreed to stop digging trenches, hiding in the mountains, and creating checkpoints.The Houthis agreed to submit the weapons and evacuate all public establishments and private buildings, including people's houses. The agreement also mentioned that land mines should be removed from Sa'ada, Al-Malaheet and Harf Sufian.
The government said that it will return all suspended teachers and will give them their suspended salaries as well. In addition, it said that it will allow internal displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes and will compensate all victims of Sa'ada's war.
The agreement was signed by the mediator Sheik Ali Naser Qarsha, the representative of the Houthis, Yosif Abdulla Al-Fishi, and the government representative, Colonel Ali Bin Ali Al-Qaisi.
The conflict between the northern Shiite Houthis and the state gos back to 2004 and ended with a ceasefire in February.  According to non-official statistics, the sixth phase of the war in Sa'ada (August 2009 - February 2010) killed more than 12,000 and caused more than 350,000 to flee their homes. There are also tensions in the south where the Southern  Movement, a coalition of opposition groups, has a range of demands from economic and social improvements to full independence for the regions of former South Yemen.

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