Saudi forces are active across the border again, in Yemeni territory. In an incident that is being likened to Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes, the Yemeni village of Um Quaia’ah, close to the Saudi border, "was ravaged by Saudi bulldozers, including mosques and electricity poles", the Yemen Observer reports, citing eyewitnesses.
A Yemeni local government official contacted by the paper declined to comment but did not deny the news. "The destroyed village is now empty of local residents except Saudi Hummers and military vehicles," the paper says.
Um Quaia’ah is/was close to al-Malahidh area – the scene of heavy fighting during the recent war with the Houthi rebels – but is said to have remained neutral.
Saudi forces have also "retrieved" two young German girls – members of a group held hostage in northern Yemen for almost a year. The exact location of that incident has not been disclosed and it is unclear whether it was connected with the bulldozing of Um Quaia’ah. The rescue was reportedly carried out by Saudi special forces in collaboration with the Yemeni military.
The Saudis became militarily involved in Yemen last Novemberat the height of the Yemeni government's six-month-long "Operation Scorched Earth" against the Houthi rebels. In an effort to prevent cross-border activity by the rebels, they declared a 10-km exclusion zone on either side of the frontier, where civilians would not be allowed. The destruction of Um Quaia’ah seems to be a continuation of that policy.
In the maritime border area, the Yemen Observer also reports the Saudis' seizure of 20 Yemeni fishermen and 13 boats which the paper says were in international waters off the Farasan Islands. Presumably this was part of the Saudi effort to prevent the Houthis receiving weapons by sea.
Meanwhile, in southern Yemen, fierce clashes were reported yesterday between security forces and "armed gangs" (i.e. separatists) in al-Habilain district of Lahij province. Al-Habilain was the scene, on Saturday, of an apparent attempt to kill President Salih.
The Yemen Post website says security forces "randomly opened fire using artilleries and tanks causing a state of horror among the people ... Homes and commercial shops were affected with some burned".
No deaths were reported but News Yemen says five people, including two soldiers, a child and a woman, were injured.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 May 2010.