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Fighting heats up in northern Yemen: Iran-backed Shi'ites charge Saudis aiding Yemen forces

CAIRO — Yemen has expanded and intensified its attack on Iranian-supported Shi'ite rebels near the border with Saudi Arabia.   

Officials said the Yemeni military has been pounding Shi'ite rebel positions in the northern province of Saada. They said Yemen Air Force Mig-29 fighter-jets, joined by artillery units, were bombing strongholds of the Believing Youth, including the provincial capital of Saada.

"They broke [the ceasefire] and resumed sabotage in the regions of Malahiz and Hafr Sufyan," the Yemeni Security Commission said on Sept. 5.

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On Sept. 4, the Sanaa regime offered a ceasefire from its offensive, called Operation Scorched Earth, which began on Aug. 11. But the Believing Youth did not formally respond to the Yemeni proposal, and fighting began hours later.

"The government sees no problem in suspending military operations," the commission said.

Officials said the Believing Youth has sustained heavy casualties, which included the death of several field commanders. In August, Yemen identified 55 Shi'ite rebel leaders wanted by the Sanaa regime.

One of the rebel casualties was identified as Hussein Yehya Hanash, regarded as a leading commander. Hanash was said to have been killed in a Yemen Army assault on Shi'ite strongholds in Al Malahaid.

"Leaders of the rebellion, among the most dangerous terrorist elements, were killed," a Yemeni military statement said.

Officials said the Believing Youth was deploying heavy weapons and armored vehicles in Saada. But they said many Shi'ite rebel units were trapped or eliminated over the last week.

For its part, Believing Youth said Yemen was receiving military assistance from neighboring Saudi Arabia. The Shi'ite rebels said Riyad was allowing its territory to be used in Yemeni attacks on Believing Youth strongholds in the mountains near the Saudi border.



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