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Shia insurgency in Yemen
Houthi map.png
Dark red=Houthi control, red=contested control, light red=Houthi presence
DateJune 18, 2004[11] - ongoing
(18 years, 2 weeks and 3 days)
LocationSa'dah, Hajjah, 'Amran and Al Jawf Governorates, Yemen and Jizan Province, Saudi Arabia
Status Conflict ongoing
Houthi rebels take over Sa'dah[12] and establish an independent administration[13][14] in Sa'dah Governorate and parts of 'Amran, Al Jawf and Hajjah Governorates.[15]


  • Security Forces
  • Pro-government tribes[1]
  • Al-Islah militias
  • ShababFlag.svg Salafi militias

 Saudi Arabia
Supported by:

United States[6][7][8][9]

Houthis (Al-Shabab al-Muminin)
Supported by:

Commanders and leaders

Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh
Yemen Abd Rabbuh Hadi
Yemen Ali Mohammed Mujur
Yemen Abdul Qadir Bajamal
Yemen Mohammed Basindawa
Yemen Ali Mohsen1[16]
Yemen Ahmad Saleh
Yemen Yahya Saleh
Yemen Amr Ali al-Uuzali [17]
Yemen Ali al-Ameri [18]
Yemen Ahmed Bawazeir [18]
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Khalid bin Sultan

Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saleh Al-Muhaya

Badreddin al-Houti2
Hussein al-Houthi
Abdul-Malik al-Houthi
Yahya al-Houthi
Muhammad al-Houthi
Abdul-Karim al-Houthi
Abdullah al-Ruzami #3
Abu Ali al-Hakem
Yusuf al-Madani
Taha al-Madani
Abu Haider
Abbas Aidah
Mohammad Abd al-Salam
Ali al-Qantawi

Faris Manna4[14]

30,000 soldiers in-theatre[19]
66,700 total[20]
27,000 tribal fighters[21]
Saudi Arabia:
100,000 deployed[22] 199,500 total[20]
Jordan: 2,000[4]

Pakistan: 300[5]

2,000 (2004)[23]
10,000 (2009)[24]

100,000 (2011)[25][26]
Casualties and losses

1,000-1,300 killed
6,000 wounded[27][28][29]
(Yemeni claim)
2,600-3,000 killed
8,000 wounded[30]
(Independent estimates)
495 captured
(all released)[30][31][32][32][33]
Saudi Arabia:
133 KIA[34][35]
470 WIA[35]

6 MIA/POW[34]

3,700-5,500 rebels and civilians killed[30] (including 187 children)[36]

3,000 arrested[37]

Total casualties:
25,000 people killed[38]
2,000 Sa'dah residents handicapped[39]
250,000 Yemenis displaced[40]
50,000 Saudis displaced[24]

(As of February 2010)

1.General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in charge of Yemeni operations against the Houthis until 2011 when he deserted.
2.Sheikh Badreddin al-Houthi died of natural causes in November 2010
3.Sheikh Abdullah al-Ruzami turned himself in, to authorities in 2005 but was later released

4.Sheikh Farris Mana'a was a government ally until his arrest in 2010, after which he endorsed the Houthis and was appointed to head their administration.

The Shia insurgency in Yemen,[41][42] also known as the Houthi rebellion, Sa'dah War or Sa'dah conflict is a civil war in Northern Yemen.[43] It began in June 2004 when dissident cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, head of the Shia Zaidiyyah sect, launched an uprising against the Yemeni government. Most of the fighting has taken place in Sa'dah Governorate in northwestern Yemen although some of the fighting spread to neighbouring governorates Hajjah, 'Amran, al-Jawf and the Saudi province of Jizan.

The Yemeni government alleged that the Houthis were seeking to overthrow it and to implement Shī‘a religious law. The rebels counter that they are "defending their community against discrimination" and government aggression.[44] The Yemeni government has accused Iran of directing and financing the insurgency.[45]

In August 2009, the Yemeni army launched a fresh offensive against Shia rebels in the northern Sa'ada province. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the fighting. The conflict took on an international dimension on 4 November 2009 as clashes broke out between the northern rebels and Saudi security forces along the two countries' common border and Saudis launched an anti-Houthi offensive. The rebels accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni government in attacks against them. The Saudi government denied this.[46] Houthi leaders claim that United States involvement in the war started on 14 December when the US launched 28 air raids.[6]

General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar commanded the Yemeni security forces during the conflict and led all the government offensives from 2004 until 2011, when he resigned his post to defend protesters during the 2011 Yemeni uprising.[47]


In 1962, a revolution in North Yemen ended over 1,000 years of rule by Zaydi Imams, a branch of Shia Islam, who claimed descent from the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Sa'dah, in the north, was their main stronghold and since their fall from power the region was largely ignored economically and remains underdeveloped. The Yemeni government has little authority in Saada.[48]

During Yemen's 1994 civil war, the Wahhabis, an Islamic group adhering to a strict version of Sunni Islam found in neighboring Saudi Arabia, helped the government in its fight against the secessionist south. Zaydis complain the government has subsequently allowed the Wahabis too strong a voice in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, for its part, worries that strife instigated by the Shia sect so close to Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia could stir up groups in Saudi itself.[48]

Although it has received little international coverage, the conflict essentially pits Yemen's Sunni-majority government against Shia fighters, a conflict that has added significance for many Arab countries worried about the rising influence of Shia-ruled Iran.[48]

The last five years of fighting against the armed Houthi group were sparked in 2004 by the government's attempt to arrest Hussein al-Houthi, a Zaydi religious leader of Shabab Al Mu'mineen and a former parliamentarian on whose head the government had placed a $55,000 bounty.[48]


Round 1: June–September 2004

From June to August 2004, government troops battled supporters of al-Houthi in the north.[49] Estimates of the dead range from 500 to 1,000.[30] On September 10, Yemeni forces killed al-Houthi.[50] Since then, the rebellion has been led by one of his brothers, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.[51] His father, Badr Eddin al-Houthi, took over the position as the group's spiritual leader.[52]

Round 2: March–May 2005

Between March and April 2005, some 1,500 people were killed in a resurgence of fighting between government forces and supporters of the slain cleric.[30]

In May 2005, the rebels rejected an offer of a presidential pardon by President Ali Abdullah Saleh after their conditions for surrender were refused by the government and minor clashes continued. On May 21, the government released estimates of the impact of the rebellion, announcing that it was responsible for 552 deaths, 2,708 injures, and over USD 270 million in economic damages.[51]

On, 23 June 2005, the rebels' military commander Abdullah al-Ruzami surrendered to Yemeni authorities. after tribal mediators worked out a deal with the government.[52]

Round 3: November 2005 – early 2006

A third round of fighting broke out from November 2005 until early 2006. During this round, the pro-government Hamdan tribe, led by Sheikh Abdullah al-Awjari battled with pro-Houthi tribes and Houthis tried to assassinate a Ministry of Justice official in Dhamar. The fighting was ended before the Presidential elections that year[53] and in March 2006, the Yemeni government freed more than 600 captured Shī‘a fighters.[54] There was no data with regards to casualties in 2006, but they were said to be significantly lower than those of the previous year.[30]

Round 4: January–June 2007

A new spate of fighting broke out on January 28, 2007, when militants attacked multiple government installations, killing six soldiers and injuring 20 more.[55][56]

Further attacks on January 31, left six more soldiers dead and 10 wounded.[57] A further ten soldiers died and 20 were wounded in an attack on an army roadblock near the Saudi Arabian border on February 1.[58] Though there was no official confirmation of militant casualties in the attacks, government sources claim three rebel fighters were killed in a security operation following the January 31 attacks.[59]

In February, the government launched a major offensive against the rebels involving 30,000 troops.[19] By February 19, almost 200 members of the security forces and over 100 rebels had died in the fighting.[60] A further 160 rebels were killed in the subsequent two weeks.[61] A French student was also killed.[62]

A ceasefire agreement was reached on June 16, 2007. The rebel leaders agreed to lay down arms and go into exile in Qatar (by whom the agreement had been mediated), while the government agreed to release rebel prisoners, help pay for reconstruction and assist with IDPs returning home.[63]

In total some 1,500 people were killed by the conflict in 2007, including 800 government troops, 600 rebels and 100 civilians.[30]

Round 5: March–July 2008

Armed incidents resumed in April 2008, when seven Yemeni soldiers died in a rebel ambush on April 29.[64] On May 2, 15 worshippers were killed and 55 wounded in a bombing at the Bin Salman Mosque in Sa'dah as crowds of people left Friday prayers. The government blamed the rebels for the bombing, but Houthi's group denied being responsible.[44][65] Shortly after the attack, three soldiers and four rebels died in overnight skirmishes.[66]

On May 12, clashes between Yemeni soldiers and rebels near the border with Saudi Arabia killed 13 soldiers and 26 rebels.[67]

During fighting in May 2008, a total of 1,000 government forces were killed and 3,000 injured. Some 70,000 people were displaced by the fighting.[30]

President Saleh declared an end to fighting in the northern Sa’dah governorate on July 17, 2008.[68]

Round 6: August 2009 – February 2010

File:Saudi Army There are Reday War.jpg

Saudi Army in Jizan Before War Against Houthis

Yemeni troops, backed by tanks and fighter aircraft, launched a major offensive, code-named Operation Scorched Earth,[69] against the rebel stronghold in northern Yemen on August 11, 2009, after the government promised to use an "iron fist" against the rebels. On September 17, more than 80 people were killed in an air raid on a camp for displaced people in northern Yemen.[70]

The conflict took on an international dimension late in the month. Clashes were reported between the Houthis and Saudi security forces near the border.[71] Also, Yemeni officials captured a boat in the Red Sea that was transporting anti-tank shells and, according to some reports, five Iranian "instructors" sent to help the Houthis.[72] Various official Iranian sources responded, calling this claim a politically motivated fabrication, and stating that the ship was traveling for business activities carrying no consignment.[73] In early November the rebels stated that Saudi Arabia was permitting Yemeni army units to launch attacks from across the border at a base in Jabal al-Dukhan, charges which were denied by the Yemeni government.[74] In late October, heavy clashes in the area of Razih led to the Houthis capturing two military headquarters and killing Yemeni commander General Amr Ali Mousa Al-Uuzali[17] In early November, General Ali Salem al-Ameri and regeonal security chief Ahmed Bawazeir were killed in a Houthi ambush as they were returning from Saudi Arabia.[18]

The conflict spilled into neighbouring Saudi Arabia for the first time since erupting in 2009 on November 4 when rebels shot dead a Saudi security officer in a cross-border attack. The rebels took control of a mountainous section inside Saudi Arabia, in the border region of Jabal al-Dukhan[71] and occupied two villages inside Saudi territory.[75][76] Saudi Arabia’s news agency said that rebels had entered Saudi territory and attacked patrols, and that a second soldier later died from wounds sustained in the same clash.[77][78] On November 5, Saudi Arabia responded by launching heavy air strikes on rebels in northern Yemen, and moved troops nearer the border. Saudi government officials said only that the air force had bombed Yemeni rebels who had seized a border area inside the kingdom, which they said had now been recaptured. The officials said at least 40 rebels had been killed in the fighting. The Saudi government adviser said no decision had yet been taken to send troops across the border, but made clear Riyadh was no longer prepared to tolerate the Yemeni rebels.[77] The Saudi assault continued the following day, as Saudi residents near the southern border of Jizan Province were evacuated.[79] At the same time, a Houthi spokesman reported to the media that they had captured Saudi troops.[80] On 16 November, Yemen killed two Houthi commanders, Abbas Aaida and Abu Haider. On 19 November, Yemeni forces took control of al-Malaheez, killing the local commander Ali al-Qatwani.[81]

Houthi leaders claim that U.S. involvement started on 14 December when the U.S. launched 28 air raids.[6] At least 120 people were killed and 44 injured by the alleged US air raids on the regions of Amran, Hajjah and Sa'dah in North Yemen. New air raids on 18 December killed 63 civilians, including 28 children and injured at least 90 people.[82] U.S. President Barack Obama claimed he had authorised the strikes against al-Qaeda.[83] On 20 December, Saudi air strike killed some civilians. According to a spokesman for the Houthis, a Saudi attack killed 54 people in the town of Al Nadheer in the northern province of Sa'dah. The group also claimed that Saudi forces were advancing on the nearby town of Zawa, also in Sa'dah, and had fired more than 200 shells.[84]

On December 22, the Houthis stated that they have managed to repulse Saudi Arabian forces trying to infiltrate into the province of Sa'dah, killing an unspecified number of Saudi soldiers in a battle in the border region.[85]

The fighting between Yemeni and Saudi forces and Houthis killed at least 119 Yemeni government forces, 263 Houthis, 277 civilians and 7 foreign civilians.[30] Saudi casualties were confirmed at 82 at the time.[86] With more soldiers killed in subsequent clashes and missing soldiers being found dead, however, the casualties rose to 133 killed by January 23, 2010. The number of missing was put at six.[34]

In early January 2010, the Houthis chose the Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to mediate in their political standoff with the Yemeni government and to find a solution to the conflict. This choice was criticized by Saudi cleric Mohammad al-Arifi, a preacher at Riyadh’s central mosque, who dismissed al-Sistani as “an infidel and debauched.” The remarks by the Saudi cleric were considered extremely insulting by Shi’as around the world, causing major outrage in some Shi'a populated countries like Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.[87][88]

On January 13, 2010, Operation Blow to the Head was launched in an attempt by the government to capture the city of Sa'adah. Security forces claimed they killed 34 and arrested at least 25 Houthis, as well as killing al-Qaeda in Yemen leader Abdullah al-Mehdar within the next two weeks of fighting.[89]

On January 25, 2010, the Houthis offered a truce[90] and withdrew from 46 positions which they held in Saudi territory. Houthi leader Abdul Malek al-Houthi said they would stop fighting to prevent further civilian casualties and the withdrawal was a gesture for peace,[91] but warned that if the Saudis were to continue fighting the Houthis would go over into open warfare. A Saudi general announced that the Houthis had stopped fighting and were not on Saudi land anymore and that in response the Saudis also stopped fighting saying, "The battle has ended by God's will." But the Saudi king denied the Houthis had withdrawn saying they were forced out, and declared military victory for the end of their conflict with the Houthis.[92] There have however been allegations that the Saudis launched new air raids on January 29, thus breaking the truce.[93]

On January 1 the Yemeni government offered a conditional cease-fire. The cease-fire had five conditions which were the re-establishment of safe passage on roads, the surrender of mountain strongholds, a full withdrawal from all local authority property, the return of all military and public equipment seized during hostilities and the release of all the detained civilians and soldiers. On January 30, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi released a video wherein he blamed the government for the recent round of fighting but said that: "Nevertheless, and for the fourth time, I announce our acceptance of the [government's] five conditions [for an end to the conflict] after the aggression stops ... the ball is now in the other party's court."[94] After the truce was accepted on January 30, however, there were still some clashes between the Houthis and both Saudi and Yemeni forces.[95] Therefore, on January 31 the Yemeni government rejected the truce and launched a new round of attacks, killing 24 people.[96]

2010 conflict with pro-government tribes

In April, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam declared that they had captured the Manaba district in Sa'dah and that government forces did not put up much resistance. Government troops declared they had killed 30 Houthis which tried to penetrate into Harf Sufyan District.

On July 17, 2010, the Houthis warned on their website that the government was preparing for another offensive against the Houthis. They said the government had been digging trenches from the Sana'a to Sa'ada. They claimed the army was trying to amass servicemen in villages and that soldiers in Amshia Bsfian region were creating an army stronghold on Mount Guide. The report came as the Yemeni government blamed Houthi fighters for recent ethnic clashes which had killed 11 people, including two soldiers and for the kidnapping of two people in a market. The Houthis have denied these allegations and have claimed that it was the work of the government.[97]

On July 20, 2010, clashes broke out between Houthis and members of an army-backed tribe, led by Sheikh Sagheer Aziz in the region of Souffian. A Houthi commander declared that the clashes had broken out because of Yemeni Army attacks on Houthis and local pro-Houthi tribes. During the clashes 49 people were killed, including 20 tribal fighters and 10 Houthi fighters. The Houthis also managed to surround the Yemeni military bases in the region.[98] Over the following days clashes continued between the Yemeni army and pro-government Bin Aziz tribes and the Houthis. The government claimed that in the following two days 20 fighters at each side had been killed. A Houthi spokesman denied these claims, stating only 3 Houthi fighters had been killed in the clashes. Both sides have blamed each other for starting the clashes.[99] The UN expressed great concern about the situation in North Yemen.[100]

On July 23, Houthi spokesman Vayf-Allah al-Shami said calm had returned to the region and that a government committee was trying to mediate a cease-fire between the Houthis and the Bin Aziz tribes in the Souffian region.[101]

On July 27, Houthis captured a military post in al-Zaala in Harf Sufyan, capturing 200 soldiers. The soldiers were from the 72nd regiment of the army's republican guard. Tribal sources claimed they had inflicted 200 fatalities on the Houthis in al-Amsheya while suffering only 30 dead themselves. Houthi spokesman Abdul Salam denied the high number of killed and said the claims were highly exaggerated. Houthis said they recovered the bodies of 17 of their fighters, including that of rebel commander Abu Haidar, near the house of Sheikh Saghir Aziz in Al-Maqam, near Al-Zaala.[102]

On July 29, the Houthis released the 200 soldiers they had captured as a good gesture. In total some 70 people had died since the clashes started.[103]

On November 22, one soldier was killed and two were wounded by a roadside bombing. The next day 23 Houthi fighters and supporters were killed and 30 were injured by a car bomb targeting a Shi'a, religious procession in al-Jawf province.[104][105] On November 26, two Shi'a mourners were killed and eight were injured by a bomb while on their way to Sa'adah city to attend Badreddin al-Houthi's funeral.[106]

In total, between 195 and 281 people were killed during this round violence, majority of the casualties on the Houthi side.[107]

2011 Yemeni revolution

A major demonstration of over 16,000 protestors took place in Sana'a on 27 January.[108] On 2 February, President Saleh announced he would not run for reelection in 2013 and that he would not pass power to his son. On 3 February, 20,000 people protested against the government in Sana'a,[109][110] others protested in Aden,[111] in a "Day of Rage" called for by Tawakel Karman,[112] while soldiers, armed members of the General People's Congress and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana'a.[113]

On February 27, Abdul Malik al-Houthi announced that the Houthis support the pro-democracy protests and their right to regime change, as happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Following these statements, large crowds of Houthis joined in with the protests all over Northern Yemen.[114]

Houthis entered the city of Sa'ada on March 19[115] and after fighting a drawn out battle with pro-government Sheikh Uthman Mujalli,[116] they managed to seize control of the town on March 24,[12] after destroying Sheikh Mujalli's house[116] and forcing the local governor to flee the city.[13] Houthis then installed new military checkpoints at the entrances and exits of the city,[116] after police deserted their posts and were relocated to army camps elsewhere.[14]

On March 26, Houthi rebels declared the creation of their own administration in Saada Governorate, independent from Yemeni authorities. A former arms dealer was appointed governor by the Houthis as the previous Sa'dah governor was forced to flee to Sanaa.[13][14]

On July 8, 23 people were killed in fighting between the Houthis and the opposition Islah party in al-Jawf governorate. The fighting erupted after the governor of al-Jawf fled and opposition tribes took control of the governorate and the Houthis refused to hand over a Yemeni military base which they had seized several months earlier.[117] Fighting continued until July 11, during that day over 30 people were killed in the violence in al-Jawf.[118] The Houthis say that some elements of the pro-Islah militias were linked to al-Qaeda.[119]

On July 28, over 120 people were killed as the Houthis launched an offensive to take over government buildings in al-Jawf.[120] The war in Jawf lasted for four months, in which Sunni tribes claimed to have killed 470 Houthis, acknowledging 85 casualties at their side,[121] and it eventually led to the Houthis taking control of al-Jawf governorate.[122]

In August a suspected al-Qaeda car-bombing killed 14 Houthis in al-Jawf [123] after al-Qaeda declared a holy war against the Houthis earlier that year.[124] Although the Houthis initially blamed the US and Israel for the bombing, al-Qaeda eventually claimed responsibility for the bombing[125] and in early November, clashes erupted between Houthis and a Salafi group in Sa'dah, in which one Salafi was killed.[126]

On November 9, after several days of heavy fighting the Houthis managed to break through defense lines of the pro-government Kashir and Aahm tribes in Hajjah Governorate, seizing control of the Kuhlan Ash Sharaf District and advancing towards the port of Midi, which would grant them access to the sea. Through Hajjah, the Houthis would be enabled to launch an assault on Yemeni capital Sana'a.[127] By taking Kuhlan Ash Sharaf, the Houthis managed to gain control over a highway linking San'a to the sea.[122]

On November 15, clashes between Houthis and Islah party militia restarted in al-Jawf, after an Islah party member tried to blow himself up during the al-Ghadeer festival, in Al Maton District but was captured and killed by the Houthis. A total of 10 people died in the ensuing fighting.[128]

On December 19, Houthis stormed a Sunni Islamist school in the Shaharah District of 'Amran governorate, injuring one teacher and expelling all teachers and students from the school. Houthis then took up positions inside the school.[129]

On March 9, A high-ranking military commander was killed on Thursday evening along with six of his bodyguards by Houthi gunmen in the northern Yemeni province of Amran[130]

On 23 November, Saleh signed a power-transfer agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, under which he would transfer his power to his Vice-President within 30 days and leave his post as president by February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.[131][132] Although the GCC deal was accepted by the JMP, it was rejected by many of the protesters and the Houthis.[133][134]

A presidential election was held in Yemen on 21 February 2012. With a report claims that it has 65 percent of its turnout, Hadi won 99.8% of the vote. Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi was taken the oath of office in Yemen's parliament on 25 February 2012. Saleh returned home at the same day to attend Hadi's presidency inauguration.[135] After months of protests, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and formally transfer power to his successor, marking the end of his 33-year rule.[136]

Throughout the year, some 200 people were killed in clashes between Houthis and Salafi militias in Sa'dah province.[137]

Post–Saleh (2012–)

On February 26, heavy fighting occurred in Hajjah governorate as Houthis fought Sunni tribesmen loyal to the Al-Islah party. At least seven fighters from the Hojjor tribe were killed and nine others injured, while in the Ahem area nine bodies were found, belonging to Houthi fighters. Houthis launched an assault backed by artillery on al-Jarabi area, al-Hazan village, al-Moshaba mountain, and Ahem police station to take control of the al-Moshaba mountain. Parts of the Kushar District were put under siege[138] since clashes erupted in that province between Houthis and the al-Zakari tribe in November.[139] In early February over 55 people had been killed during sectarian violence in Kushar.[140] During February and March some 27 people were killed and 36 injured due to mines in Hajjah. A total of 600 were killed in clashes in Hajjah between November 2011 and April 2012, mainly in Kushar and Mustaba Districts.[141]

On March 9, a high ranking Yemeni military commander and six of his bodyguards were killed by a Houthi ambush in Northern 'Amran. The bodyguards returned fire, killing at least three Houthis.[142]

On March 23, a suicide bomber targeted a Houthi march in Sa'dah, no casualties were reported.[143] On March 25, some 14 people were killed and three injured in a car bombing in al-Hazm of al-Jawf province, targeting a Shi'a gathering near a school.[144] Another 8 Houthis were killed in an attack by Salafis on April 21.[145] From June 2 to June 4, Houthis clashed with Salafi militias in Kataf districtm leaving several dead.[146] Houthis claim to have taken over three Salafi positions and confiscated Saudi weapons during the clash.[147]

On August 21, clashes broke out between Houthis and tribes in Ash Shahil District of Hajjah after Houthis allegedly shot two women in the district. As the fighting broke out, Houthis retreated from al-Amroor area and retreated to the mountains between Janeb al-Sham and Janeb al-Yemen. Houthis were said to control several mountains in the region including mount Azzan and the governorate center that overlooks al-Mahabishah, Qafl Shamer and Ku'aydinah Districts. A truce was signed between the two sides on August 30.[148] Clashes reignited on September 6 and Houthis managed to seize control of five schools, a medical center and a police station. Some 30 people were killed in the battles.[149] Afterwards Houthis complaied of civilian areas being shelled by al-Islah, while MP Ali al-Ma'amari accused Houthis of killing a worker from Taiz.[150]

In September and October, Houthis led may protests in Sana'a as part of the 2012 Anti-US protests caused by the release of Innocence of Muslims. Houthi slogans were hung all across the old city of Sana'a and Shi'a majority areas during the protests.[151] This has led to Houthis expanding their control in Sana'a Governorate and other areas around the capital, particularly Khwlan and Sanhan Districts and the town Shibam Kawkaban in al-Mahwit.[152] Al-Juraf district was also named as a Houthi stronghold, where they had large numbers of weapons stationed. Sunni sources have alleged that Houthis have used the protests to smuggle weapons and fighters from areas surrounding Sana'a into Sana'a city itself, mainly in the old city.[153]

During one of the protests, in Raydah, Amran, clashes broke out between Houthis and Islahi gunmen after the Islahi gunmen interrupted a Houthi mass rally, denouncing Innocence of Muslims and the US government, on September 21. Two people were killed during the clash and three Islahi gunmen were captured.[150] Fighting continued until September 23, leaving 16 fighters dead and 36 Islah men captured by the Houthis. After a cease-fire was agreed on, Houthis withdrew from the town and released the prisoners they had taken.[137] A group of Houthis remained in Owaidan mosque.[154]

Alleged foreign involvement

Iran and Hezbollah

There have been a number of alleged Iranian involvements in the Sa'dah insurgency to aid the Houthis, including:

  • The Saudi and Yemeni governments both accuse Shia Iran of helping the Houthis. Iran, they say, has secretly landed arms on the Red Sea coast. In October, 2009, Yemen’s government said its navy intercepted an arms-carrying Iranian vessel. Yemen’s state-controlled press claims Houthi rebels have been trained in an Iranian-run camp across the Red Sea in Eritrea. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, says members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hizbullah militia are teaching them. The Yemeni authorities also darkly note that the Houthis’ long-time leader, Hussein al-Houthi, who died in battle in 2004, used to visit Qom, one of Shia Iran’s holiest cities.[155] None of these accusations have yet been borne out by independent observers and the Iranians deny any involvement.
  • quoted well-informed sources as saying that "the president of the former South Yemen (Ali Salim al-Bidh) conducted a secret visit to the Lebanese capital Beirut last October (2009), and tried to contact figures close to Hizbullah aiming to win its support for the Huthi rebels, and for South (Yemen's) secession." The sources added that those Hizbullah-allied figures "informed al-Bidh that the party's top officials do not want to meet with him and that they do not approve the attribution of Hizbullah's name with what is happening in Yemen, or to appear as supporting to any rebellion." Ibrahim al-Mussawi, Head of Hizbullah's Media Unit, told that his party denies the report about an alleged secret visit.[156]
  • High-ranking officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were said to have secretly met with Huthi rebels and Hizbullah in Yemen to coordinate joint military operations against Saudi positions along the border. Pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat daily said Arab and Egyptian sources uncovered that a number of intelligence services in the region have learned of the three-way meeting which also aimed at developing a plan to escalate the military situation along the Saudi-Yemeni border. It said the high-level meeting which took place in November, 2009 was the most prominent evidence of "direct Iranian involvement" in the support of Huthi rebels financially, militarily and logistically.[157]
  • Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kurbi on 13 December 2009 urged Iran to crack down on Iranian groups he accused of aiding Huthi rebels in northern Yemen and held Iran's government partly to blame. He said: "Religious (Shiite) circles and groups in Iran are providing aid to the Huthis," However, Iran has repeatedly denied such accusations.[158]
  • On 25 May, Iran first deployed warships to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy in Somalia.[159] On 20 January 2010, On 18 November, a second group of Iranian warships came to the Gulf of Aden, at the same time as Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Houthi-controlled coasts and launched a crackdown on Houthi ships delivering weapons to the Houthis.[159] Iran dispatched its 5th fleet to the Gulf of Aden.[160] Some have alleged that the Iranian Navy is operating there to help supply the Houthis with weapons and counter the Saudi naval power in the area rather than to fight Somali pirates.[159]

United States

On December 2009, According to The New York Times, the United States has provided weapons and logistical support to Yemeni government strikes against suspected hide-outs of so-called Al Qaeda within its borders. The officials said that the American support was approved by President Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government.[161] Houthis claimed in a statement that the U.S. has used modern fighter jets and bombers in its offensive against the Yemen fighters.[6]

Houthi leaders however claim that US involvement started on 14 December when the US launched 28 air raids.[6] At least 120 people were killed and 44 injured by the alleged US air raids on the regions of Amran, Hajjah and Sa'ada in North Yemen, a Houthi leader was quoted as saying: "The US air force perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplanes, The savage crime committed by the US air force shows the real face of the United States. It cancels out much touted American claims of human rights protection, promotion of freedoms of citizens as well as democracy."[162] The Houthi claimed that new air raids on 18 December killed 63 civilians, including 28 children and injured at least 90 people.[82]

On June 17, 2011, following Friday prayers, tens of thousands of protestors rallied in Sa'dah against US interference in Yemen.[163]

The houthis blamed US intelligence forces of carrying out a bombing in August 2011 which killed 14 Houthi fighters.[123]


  •  Jordan: It has been alleged that Jordan deployed commandos to fight alongside the Saudis during their offensive in Northern Mount Al-Dukhan and that Saudis sent the Jordanian commandos to fight in Northern Yemen. They also sent auxiliary units to support Saudi forces.[2] By December 2009 it was alleged that over 2,000 Jordanian soldiers were fighting at the front.[4]
  •  Morocco: King Mohammed VI of Morocco is alleged to have sent hundreds of elite fighters, mainly para-troopers to trained for counter-insurgency operations to aid the 2009-2010 Saudi offensive.[4]
  •  Pakistan: It was alleged in Pakistani newspapers that the government of Pakistan had sent 300-man Special Forces unit to join Yemeni counter insurgency operations in Sa'dah.[5]

Humanitarian effects

In April 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that the conflict had created 77,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sa'dah Governorate.[164] By order of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the Saudis are to shelter and build 10,000 new homes for the war-displaced people.[165][166][167]

Use of child soldiers

UNICEF and Islamic Relief Worldwide were reported as condemning Al-Houthi rebels for abusing children by forcing them to fight for their cause.[168][169] In November 2009, over 400 children walked to the UNDP office in Sana'a, to protest against Houthi abuse of children's rights.[170] The Yemeni military has also been accused of employing children under 18 in its ranks.[171]

See also


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