Rebels kill three Saudi soldiers

Just days after King Abdullah "confirmed" that "all armed infiltrators" had been driven out of the kingdom, Saudi forces have suffered their heaviest casualties since entering the war against Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Three soldiers were killed and an unspecified number wounded in an attack by "dozens" of infiltrators in the Jebel Rumayh area of the border on Saturday, according to military sources.

The Houthis, who claimed in turn to have repulsed two Saudi incursions into Yemen, accused the Saudis of carrying out their heaviest air strikes on Yemeni territory so far, targeting Hidan, Razah, Shedah and Malahidh.

Some of the rebels are reportedly driving around in military vehicles captured from the Yemeni army, so it's probably only a matter of time before the Saudis fire on Yemeni troops by mistake.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are both separately claiming (here and here) that their navy has thwarted a Houthi attempt to seize the Yemeni port of Midi, which would have given the rebels an outlet to the sea.

The Saudi daily, Asharq Alawsat, also has an interesting articleon how the war is affecting supplies of qat, which forms a major part of the smuggling trade in the border area (see my posthere from yesterday). Qat prices have trebled and drug smuggling activity more generally has gone down by 50%, it says.

What this indicates is that despite the military operations, and intensive efforts to seal the border, drugs are still getting through. And if drugs can get through, so can weapons.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 23 November 2009.