(AFP) – Nov 25, 2009
SANAA — At least eight Zaidi rebels and four pro-government tribesmen have been killed in fighting in north Yemen, a tribal source said on Wednesday, as Saudi forces continued to attack insurgents on the border between the two countries.
The casualties were inflicted in fighting between members of the Popular Army of pro-government volunteers and rebels in Malahidh, the source said, without giving a date.
There was also fighting between units of Yemen's presidential guard and rebels in Harf Sufyan, with rebel positions being heavily bombarded, the source said.
Meanwhile, the Zaidi Shiite rebels announced a new offensive against Saudi troops in the Marwi region.
But in Riyadh, a senior defence official said media reports that Saudi forces had attacked the rebels inside Yemen were "lies" and "fabrications," state news agency SPA reported.
The unnamed official said King Abdullah had expressly ordered armed forces only to expel the rebels from Saudi territory and not to cross the border, SPA said.
Amid reports the Saudis were trying to create a buffer zone, the Zaidis, also known as Huthis, said they destroyed two Saudi tanks on Wednesday as they tried to cross into Yemen and that clashes were continuing into the evening.
Yemen's defence ministry reported that it had destroyed several rebel hideouts in the border area and had captured a "Huthi leader," Abud Shamlan.
"Yemeni forces gained full control of Sabkhanah Hill in Malahidh, expelled the terrorist partisans from the area and captured many weapons, including light and medium machine-guns, mortars and large quantities of ammunition," the ministry's website said.
Saudi newspapers reported on Wednesday that Saudi soldiers continue to fight along the rugged border of Yemen's Saada province and Saudi Arabia's Jizan province, three weeks after Riyadh mobilised land, air and sea forces in response to a Huthi attack in Jizan.
Three Saudi soldiers were killed in fighting this week, Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
In recent days, Saudi forces have unearthed tunnels and arms caches in the border area, several Saudi newspapers quoted a senior defence ministry official as saying.
Al-Watan reported that Saudi forces had arrested 902 people trying to cross the border from Yemen in recent days, mostly Yemenis but also a handful of Somalis and Ethiopians.
Saudi regional security specialist and retired general Anwar Eshki said his country's military is seeking to establish a buffer zone of 10 kilometers (six miles) without inhabitants on either side of the border.
"The problem in Yemen gives us a good chance to fix our border problem," said Eshki, head of the Middle East Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies.
On Tuesday, witnesses in the border area told AFP clashes between the Saudis and rebels continued, and that there were intense artillery strikes and air raids on Huthi positions.
It was not clear if the bombardment and air raids were carried out by Saudi or Yemeni forces.
The Huthis, locked in a five-year-old war with the Yemeni government, said they had repelled a multi-pronged assault involving air raids and ground shelling launched by Saudi forces along the border on Monday.
In August, Yemen's government launched Operation Scorched Earth, a campaign against the Huthis, who Sanaa says aim to undermine the government.
On November 4, Saudi forces overtly joined the fight for the first time with air and heavy artillery strikes after a small band of Huthis entered Saudi territory and killed a border guard.
The rebels are believed to be sandwiched between Yemeni and Saudi forces in rugged mountain terrain along Yemen's northwestern border.
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