Saudi Arabia Attacks Shiite Stronghold in Yemen
War to the South
The Shiite rebel group, al-houthi or Hawthis, has been battling with Yemen for over five years over various disputes. The group, based in Jabal al-Dukhan (mountain of smoke) region is known to have ties to al-Qaeda and Iran, and is viewed by Yemen and SA as a threat since both are predominately Sunni.
On Nov. 3, the disupte flared up again and Yemen launched its own ground attack and barrage on the rebel locations largely in the old city of Sa'adah. Yemen military forces surrouned the area and then proceeded to barrage the houses with tank and artillery fire. some 80 fighters were killed but many fled the area into border areas such as Jabal al-Dukhan. On the 4th, many of the rebels attempted to infiltrate into SA and a firefight ensued between the SA Border Guards and rebels resulting in in five SA soldiers KIA and 15 rebels KIA. Analysts believe that the al-Houthi rebels are trying to attract regional forces into the war. Media observers think that the rebels are attempting to rationalize the war because they are in their last days after being defeated on many fronts.
The leader of the rebels, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said that the Saudi army is bombarding his fighters in al-Malahaid far west of Sa'adah, "with all kinds of weapons". The Saudi American made F15s and British made Tornadoes bombed the al-Malahaid area, Jabal al-Mamdood, al-Husama and al-Mujda'a with phosphoric bombs. For the SA, the border crossings was the "last straw" of tolerance. It was also a show of force that further escalations will not be tolerated. SA artillery pummeled suspected areas.
Since October, a total of 217 al-Houthi men were arrested in Hajja, al-Jawf, Marib and Sana'a. In addition, more than 30 trucks and cars loaded with supplies and arms for the rebels were seized. Many of these weapons came from Iran, who is trying to escalate the fighting, something that SA is determined to fight against in this oil rich region. SA is also concerned that al-Qaida, known for its connections to Yemen, will incite further unrest by smuggling in its own fighters in the area or into SA, home of Osama bin Laden. The weak government of Yemen has little control outside its capital, San'a, and is fighting on multiple fronts including the northern rebels and a separatist movement in the south. Worst is the lingering threat from al-Qaida militants in this impoverished country on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
All of this makes Saudi Arabia edgy and a bit nervous and its huge oil reserves. Small events have a way of spinning out of control and into much larger ones rapidly.