'140 rebels killed' in Yemen

The Yemeni army says it killed more than 140 Houthi rebels in Saada city yesterday in "the fiercest" fighting since Operation Scorched Earth began on August 11.

The rebels attacked at 3.00 am from three directions in an attempt to capture the government's regional headquarters, but the army foiled their advance, a military official said. "So far more than 140 bodies have been found."

Meanwhile, President Salih has adopted the "Gaza defence" in connection with civilian casualties. In a speech broadcast by the state media, he accused the rebels of using "human shields". 

However, there is no evidence so far that this was the situation when Yemeni warplanes killed more than 80 displaced people – mostly women and children – last Wednesday. The victims were sheltering on open ground and, according to one witnesscited by Human Rights Watch, there were no armed clashes or rebels in the area at the time.

A military spokesman yesterday described footage published by the rebels, and apparently showing children killed in last week's air raid, as a "fabrication". He was probably referring to this (but don't watch if you're squeamish).

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 21 September 2009.