x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Saudis deny Yemen incursion

Saudi Arabia refutes allegations that its military encroached on Yemeni territory to attack the al Houthi rebels in their homeland.

Saudi Arabia today denied reports that its military encroached on Yemeni territory to attack Shiite rebels in their homeland. A senior defence ministry official said reports in various media that Saudi forces had attacked the rebels inside Yemen were "lies" and "fabrications," the state news agency SPA said. The unnamed defence official noted that Saudi's King Abdullah had expressly ordered the armed forces only to expel the Houthi rebels from Saudi territory and not to cross the border, SPA added.

Yesterday the al Houthis, Zaidi Shiites locked in a five-year-old war with the Yemen government, said they had repelled a multi-pronged assault involving air raids and ground shelling launched by Saudi forces along the border on Monday. "The Saudi attack continued on three fronts, but two were broken by Monday evening," it said. "The attack on the third front continued until night, but was broken completely and the (Saudi) aggressors suffered heavy losses in men and material."

Witnesses in the frontier area told AFP that clashes between the Saudis and rebels continued yesterday, and that there were intense artillery strikes and air raids on Houthi positions all along the border. But it was not clear if the bombardment and air raids were carried out by Saudi or Yemeni forces. In August Yemen's government launched a "Scorched Earth" campaign against the al Houthis, who Sana'a says aim to undermine the government.

On November 4 Saudi forces overtly joined the fight for the first time using air and heavy artillery strikes after a small band of al Houthis 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 the border in Yemen's north-west. * AFP