On Tuesday, DPA bungled a report on Saudi Arabian casualties in fighting at its border with Yemen.[1]  --  This fighting relates to a civil war in Yemen that has been ongoing for years, though U.S. media reports have mostly focused on the question of Al Qaeda's presence in Yemen and not the challenges to the Yemeni state from groups opposing Sana'a's dictatorial rule.  --  The Arab Monitor was clearer:  "Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Khaled bin Sultan admitted that his country's military intervention in neighboring Yemen has so far resulted in 73 soldiers killed and 470 wounded, while 26 are missing.  According to him, 12 of the missing are believed to have been killed, while the fate of the remaining 14 is still unclear.  Following these announcements, the Deputy Defense Minister said his country's armed forces are mulling an attack on the border village of al-Jabiriya, where the al-Houthi movement is still present."[2]  --  The news agency also said that Yemen's deputy parliamentary speaker "suspended his membership" in parliament Tuesday in protest against the killing of civilians in the Dec. 17 U.S. cruise missile strikes on Yemen at the Yemeni government's behest "after Yemeni Deputy Defense and Security Affairs Minister Rashad al-Alimi failed to appear in Parliament to answer questions raised by the Abyan operation."  --  Reuters reported that "Military analysts say Saudi Arabia may face a long mountain war with the rebels despite its advanced weaponry because it has little experience in fighting guerrillas."[3]  --  "The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of the Yemeni government's focus on the Shi'ite rebellion in the north and rising secessionist sentiment in the south to spread its operations to the kingdom, the world's top oil exporter."  --  Though no evidence of such a connection has been presented, both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have an interest in portraying the fighting in Yemen as a proxy war with Iran that is furthering the interests of global terrorist networks, while the grievances of the Houthis and the sufferings of the people of the region are largely getting short shrift in Western media. --  But on Tuesday the Christian Science Monitor was a praiseworthy exception.[4] ...

1.

SAUDI DEATH TOLL IN YEMEN CONFLICT RISES TO 73


Deutsche Presse-Agentur
December 22, 2009

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1520914.php/Saudi-death-toll-in-Yemen-conflict-rises-to-73

RIYADH -- The number of Saudi citizens killed in clashes at at the country's southwestern border with Yemen rose to 73, Saudi officials reported Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan told state television that an additional 12 Saudis had been 'martyred,' though he did not specify whether these were civilians or soldiers, or how they had died.

An additional 26 people were missing, he said, and another 470 had been injured.

Saudi Arabia says it was drawn into the fighting between Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels and the government in Sanaa after militants crossed into the kingdom and killed several soldiers in early November.

The rebels have charged that Saudi airstrikes have killed dozens of civilians.

The number of Yemenis killed in the conflict, which has flared sporadically since 2004, is unclear.  The United Nations estimates that the fighting has forced at least 150,000 people to flee their homes.

2.

YEMEN'S GOVERNMENT [FURTHER] AWAY THAN EVER FROM RESTORING POLITICAL STABILITY


Arab Monitor
December 22, 2009

http://www.arabmonitor.info/news/dettaglio.php?idnews=29227&lang=en


Saudi Arabian Deputy Defense Minister Khaled bin Sultan admitted that his country's military intervention in neighboring Yemen has so far resulted in 73 soldiers killed and 470 wounded, while 26 are missing.  According to him, 12 of the missing are believed to have been killed, while the fate of the remaining 14 is still unclear.  Following these announcements, the Deputy Defence Minister said his country's armed forces are mulling an attack on the border village of al-Jabiriya, where the al-Houthi movement is still present.

It seems however that the alleged goal of Saudi Arabian and U.S. intervention in Yemen to help Sana'a restore political stability, is [further] away than before the operation Scorched Earth began on 11 August.  Today Yemen's Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad al-Shadadi suspended his membership in Parliament protesting against the killing of at least 63 civilians, among them 28 children, during the government's military assaults in the southern Abyan province last Thursday.

Al-Shadadi's decision came after Yemeni Deputy Defense and Security Affairs Minister Rashad al-Alimi failed to appear in Parliament to answer questions raised by the Abyan operation.  Meanwhile, the operation in Abyan had prompted thousands of Yemeni citizens to head towards the two affected areas of al-Maajana in the Mehfed district to stage an open-end protest against the government, which, echoing US statements, had declared this attack as a success.

3.

SAUDI SAYS 73 SOLDIERS SLAIN IN WAR ON YEMEN REBELS


Reuters
December 22, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/12/22/world/international-uk-saudi-yemen-rebels.html


JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday at least 73 of its troops had been killed in fighting against Yemeni rebels since November, but the war was nearly over.

"Major operations in the border area have almost entirely ended.  There are still incursions, and the use of snipers but we are constantly prepared to confront them," Prince Khaled bin Sultan, assistant minister of defence, said on state television.

"There were 73 martyrs and 26 missing," he said, adding that 12 of the missing were believed to be dead but their bodies had not been recovered.

Saudi Arabia launched its assault against Yemen's Shi'ite Muslim rebels, known as Houthis, in the area near its border with Yemen last month after the insurgents staged a cross-border incursion that killed two Saudi border guards.

A rebel spokesman said the war was far from over.

"This was a confession that there is a real war going on . . . for which the Saudi regime carries the responsibility," said rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam, accusing the Saudi air force of attacking civilian targets.

"Our fighters have gained a lot of experience over the years," he told Al Jazeera television by telephone, declining to give details of insurgent casualties.

The rebels said on their website earlier that Saudi warplanes and helicopters had launched 39 raids against targets in northern Yemen since late Monday.

The West and Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda will take advantage of the Yemeni government's focus on the Shi'ite rebellion in the north and rising secessionist sentiment in the south to spread its operations to the kingdom, the world's top oil exporter.

Military analysts say Saudi Arabia may face a long mountain war with the rebels despite its advanced weaponry because it has little experience in fighting a guerrillas.

The Houthis, who began their rebellion in 2004, belong to the Zaidi sect of minority Shi'ite Islam, and complain of social, economic and religious marginalisation by the Yemeni government. Both sides deny their aims are sectarian.

Saudi media frequently mention an al Qaeda presence among the Houthis and Yemen sees Iran's hand behind the rebels. Iran denies involvement and has called for Yemen's government to end the fighting through negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam, has been at odds with Shi'ite Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Jon Hemming/David Stamp)

4.

World

Middle East

FRESH FIGHTING IN YEMEN IGNITES REFUGEE CRISIS

By Michael Horton

** Refugees in northern Yemen say that their villages were bombed in an escalating conflict with Houthi rebels. The population of the largest refugee camps doubled in the past month, prompting UNHCR to open a third one Dec. 17. **

Christian Science Monitor

December 22, 2009

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/1222/Fresh-fighting-in-Yemen-ignites-refugee-crisis

MAZRAK, Yemen -- As the fighting between Yemeni forces and Houthi rebels escalates in the country’s remote northern region, the international community has focused largely on the potential for the war to further weaken the central government -- leaving it vulnerable to threats from both separatists and militant Islamists.

But largely unseen by the outside world, the humanitarian consequences are mounting in refugee camps rarely accessed by Western journalists.  Displaced families -- some with their goats, sheep, donkeys, and cows in tow -- are steadily filing into the UNHCR-run camps in Mazrak, forcing the agency to open a third one at the end of last week.

With the dull thud of artillery fire in the distance, Hussein Abdullah describes how his family was forced to first flee their village into nearby Saudi Arabia and was then forced to leave Saudi Arabia after the Houthis attacked a Saudi border post.

“After the Saudis started fighting the Houthis,” he says, “they told us we could not stay in Saudi Arabia.  We left with nothing more than we could carry.  My cattle are still in Saudi Arabia. How am I supposed to get them back?”

Hussein is one of the many Yemenis who first fled to Saudi Arabia and were then forced to return to Yemen, eventually making their way to the UNHCR-run Internal Displaced Person (IDP) camps at Mazrak.

According to the UNHCR office in the nearby town of Harad, the population of the largest of the three camps has doubled in the last month to 16,675.  However, this number is only a fraction of the estimated 150,000 who have been forced to flee the on-again, off-again fighting that has plagued the north for five years.

“My house was bombed and, by God, I don’t even know who bombed it.  We lost everything,” says Fatima Ghais, as she stood in a tent and pointed to a plastic bag that held some clothes and plastic cups.  Ghais, like many in the camp, is completely dependent on the UNHCR and other relief services which are providing food, water, and shelter.

The day before the third camp opened on Dec. 17, another 64 families arrived, estimated Nabil Ahmad, an assistant manager with Islamic Relief.  Outside the camps, dozens of civilians have reportedly been wounded and killed in the northern Saada governorate, according to an update published today by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

HIGH PRAISE FOR UNHCR

In the town of Mazrak, Yemeni soldiers crowd the town’s qat market -- the mild narcotic leaf is a key staple of society here -- before heading back to the front, only 19 miles away in Minzalah.  Despite five years of fighting, Yemen’s army has been unable to quell the Houthi rebellion, which has escalated in recent months due to a renewed offensive by the Yemeni army.

The Yemeni government claims that the Houthis -- adherents to a radical form of Zaidism, a conservative off-shoot of Shiite Islam -- want to overthrow Yemen’s government and reestablish the imamate.  However, the Houthis, who have never clearly articulated their political agenda, deny this and say they are fighting to defend their land, beliefs, and culture against a government that discriminates against them.

In November, the conflict took on a regional dimension when Saudi Arabia, responding to attacks by Houthi rebels, began what Saudi officials describe as a border security operation.  The Saudis are attempting to create a cordon sanitaire seven miles deep along part of their border.  The fallout from this operation has been an escalation in fighting and a surge in displaced persons.

In the already stifling mid-morning heat, people crowd around, anxious to tell their stories.

“I didn’t even know the name Mazrak and now I am here.  God knows when I will leave,” says Dhaifah Jarah, who describes how her entire village was destroyed by jets dropping bombs.  “I don’t know who did it.  Some of the men said they were Saudi planes but only God knows who it was.”

Jarah, whose husband is dead, lives by herself in one of the tents.  Her only possessions are a mattress and the clothes she is wearing.

A man from the town of Bini Sad, who gives his name only as Abdul Kareem, says he was also bombed out of his home.

“First the Houthis stole my sheep and then all this bombing started.  When will it end?” he asks, as the heavy rattle of machine gun fire sounds off again in the distance.  Most of the people gathered around had high praise for the efforts of the UNHCR and other relief services.

“Yes, we have food, thank God,” says Mohammed Ali, another resident of the camp.  “There are some problems but we are surviving.”

MALNOURISHED CHILDREN AND 14,000 HEAD OF LIVESTOCK


The UNHCR and other agencies working in the camps face a daunting task.  In addition to providing shelter, food, and water for thousands of people in a hot and largely arid region, the agencies must also cope with an estimated 14,000 head of livestock that people have brought with them.  The French NGO Triangle provides food and vaccinations for the assortment of goats, sheep, donkeys, and cows.

“They are bringing us food for our animals,” says Jibran Ali, as he points to some goats chewing on dried maize stalks.  Mr. Ali is one of the fortunate few:  He was able to flee with his animals.  Most of the residents of the camps had to leave their livestock behind, some with neighbors, while others were forced to abandon their animals in Saudi Arabia after they were deported.  “How will the people recover from this -- all these animals lost here and there?  These animals are our wealth.  They are all we have.”

In front of one of the camp’s water tanks, a malnourished boy named Mohammed stands in the mud with his older sister.  According to UNICEF, the agency and its partner Médecins Sans Frontières are dealing with more than 600 severely malnourished children.  Adnan Abdul Fattah, director of the UNICEF program in Mazrak, said that in addition to those cases, UNICEF must also cope with widespread moderate malnourishment among children in the camps.  An estimated 45 percent of children in Yemen suffer from malnutrition.

U.N. APPEALS FOR $177 MILLION IN AID


With no sign that the war will end soon, the UNHCR is proceeding with its long-term plan to bring water and electricity to the camps.  The U.N. recently launched a $177 million appeal for aid to help fund its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.

Both the Yemeni and Saudi governments say that they are defeating the Houthi rebels.  However, the Yemeni government has repeatedly claimed victories against the Houthis in the past, only to have the fighting flare up again.  Sheltered in her tent from the hot afternoon sun, Jarah wonders, “Will I ever see my home again?  Look at me.  I am an old woman.  How long will I be here?”