Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Huthi Rebels Using New Tactics on the Battlefield | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jizan, Asharq Al-Awsat- As confrontations between Saudi forces and infiltrators enter its fourth week, information received from the battlefront indicates that the infiltrators have resorted to new combat tactics, including disguising themselves as animals after their previous ploy of using women’s clothes had failed, as they try to penetrate the fortified southern Saudi borders.

According to the reports of Saudi soldiers from the battlefront, the small groups of infiltrators which are usually made up of 10 to 20 fighters tried deceiving the Saudi army by using animals, placing searchlights on them, and releasing them in various parts of the border strip so as to give the impression that these were moves by the infiltrators intending to attack Saudi military positions. They stressed that the infiltrators also resorted to setting up ambushes, deceptions, and using animals’ hides as disguise after they failed to disguise themselves in women’s clothes for penetrating, outflanking the Saudi forces, and attacking them from behind. These ploys succeeded at first, especially as the infiltrators were well acquainted with the area’s topography and relied on the hills to discover the Saudi army’s moves inside its territories which are relatively lower than the areas on the other side of the borders with Yemen.

It became evident that the military reinforcements sent recently to the battlefield and the intensive deployment of Saudi land forces, marines, and paratrooper brigades supported by “F15” and Tornado aircrafts and reconnaissance and Apache helicopters reduced the infiltration attempts during the past days.

Saudi military sources inside the battle described the infiltrators’ direct assaults as “suicide operations that are impossible to result in any military victory for lightly-armed groups.” They stressed that the lines of retreat for them are totally blocked and anyone who tries to penetrate the borders and come inside the restricted military sector “will face either death or decide to surrender” and added that the most the infiltrators are seeking is to score human losses in the Saudi forces ranks.

Meanwhile, a high-level military official in the Saudi armed forces told Asharq Al-Awsat that the infiltrators’ plans are not static but change continuously between hiding among the displaced, shooting from the back, or hiding inside the border villages’ houses and attacking at night and stressed that the Saudi forces are confronting and foiling all these attempts.

During the first two weeks following the purge of Jabal Dokhan where the clashes first broke out, the Huthis relied on infiltrating in small numbers and groups of few dozens into the areas of the Saudi forces’ deployment and therefore escape the air and artillery bombardment and then exchange fire. This was done on several fronts in Jabal Dokhan, Al-Rumayh, and the border Jallah village. Many of them hid inside houses in the border villages during the day and then attacked at night and the Saudi forces dealt with this by demolishing a number of old buildings in these areas. The infiltrators meanwhile succeeded in exchanging fire with “RPGs” and Katyushahs at a depth of 10 km inside Saudi areas while Saudi forces supported by Apache aircraft destroyed a group that had infiltrated and whose presence was monitored in Al-Ayn’s hot spring area near the border strip’s operations command as it intended to destroy artillery pieces, according to the sources.

After two weeks of confrontations, military sources asserted to local media organs that the forces’ use of reconnaissance teams succeeded inlaying the area open, exposing the infiltrators’ plans, and foiling their repeated attempts.

The current week saw a new kind of method used by the rebels, namely, a sudden attack with large numbers of several hundreds. These attacks take place at critical hours such as dawn, midnight, or during prayer times so as to achieve a gain on the ground believing that the Saudi forces would not be ready. Observers of the situation believe the extensive deployment of Saudi forces foiled individual infiltration attempts and this prompted them to adopt new tactics.

Military analyses differ over explaining the continuation of the fighting for more than 20 days as the infiltrators try desperately with all means to penetrate the border strip. According to Yemeni sources in Sa’dah, they pointed out that the Huthist elements’ religious motivation makes them believe that their death at the foot of Jabal al-Rumayh and Dokhan “is a confirmed certificate for entering paradise.” In Sa’dah, the people are also talking about a prevailing fatwa among the attackers to the effect that killing an officer or a soldier is tantamount to “getting the keys to paradise.” Others pointed to the Huthists’ eagerness to let the source of chaos and concerns continue so as to prolong the confrontations as this is considered a moral factor in the guerilla warfare’s victory or defeat equation and in view of the official Saudi leaderships’ assertion that their forces would not cross their borders but would remain to defend and repel anyone who thinks of committing aggression against the country.

Some analyses refer to the Huthist infiltrators’ belief in their ability to score military victory that secures for them a bargaining card if the confrontations shifted from the military solution to the political or peaceful one.

The intensive air bombardment by Saudi forces continued yesterday. The first operations began during the first hours of dawn and fire was seen in positions in Jabal Razih which overlooks the border strip. Sources speculated that the bombardment, which began after midnight and whose sounds were heard, succeeded in targeting strategic areas, weapons caches, and infiltrators’ trenches. Local residents said their houses were shaken by the explosions.

The air sorties continued all day yesterday and during the evening. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the Saudi army launched a land offensive yesterday afternoon on areas in Jabal Al-Rumayh and Jabal Dokhan where groups of infiltrators were concentrated using in this attack land forces, the artillery, and aircraft. Military sources said the attack inflicted heavy human and material losses among the infiltrators but military media sources postponed comment on this until tomorrow when a military media meeting would beheld and a statement on the clashes issued.

The infiltrators have resorted to launching night attacks by hundreds of gunmen positioned in areas close to the border strip. According to a statement issued by the Huthists’ media office, the Huthists claimed that the Saudi army launched yesterday afternoon a big offensive against Yemeni territories in which land vehicles, rocket launchers, heavy artillery, and warplanes were used. On his part, a high-level military official stressed that the Saudi forces are firm in their combat principles of no attack except against those aggressing against our territories. He stressed that we would retaliate with all the power we have to any aggression by any means and whatever timing.

Military sources said the infiltrators’ positions that were combed had been totally destroyed by the air bombardments of their hideouts and which scored direct hits. They added that the Saudi forces were continuing their military operations that include the aircraft and heavy artillery in the border strip areas, especially in the Jabal Dokhan, Al-Rumayh, Al-Dud areas and Wadi al-Mawqid where the clashes are taking place at present. They added that these positions were secured totally and said the infiltrators who tried to use the narrow passes and valleys to infiltrate and penetrate the border strip were taught a harsh lesson. The past three days saw intensive offensive operations by the infiltrators who tried to take the Saudi forces by surprise by attacking them in their hundreds but the Saudi army repulsed all the attacks since the start of the week during which reconnaissance planes flew intensive sorties over the mountains to the east of Al-Masarihah Governorate to monitor any infiltrations across them. On the other hand, medical sources reported that several wounded persons were taken to Samitah General Hospital.