SANAA – Yemen’s rebels on September 29 claimed they launched a major attack on the border of Saudi Arabia, releasing video purporting to show captive Saudi soldiers and equipment.
The Houthi-owned Al-Masirah television network on Sunday broadcast footage showing a long, snaking line of what the rebels said were captured troops walking in rugged terrain. Many of the men, who apparently surrendered to the rebels, were dressed in flip flops and the traditional sarong-like clothing worn in Yemen and parts of Saudi Arabia. A handful wore tan camouflage uniforms. At least two of the men said on camera that they were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Other images showed burning armored vehicles with Saudi markings and weapons that the Houthis said they seized. Houthi fighters are also shown apparently launching attacks on coalition troops, clashes that left what appears to be corpses in Saudi military uniforms.
The video also shows fighting in a mountainous area, with Houthi fighters apparently attacking Saudi troops in armoured vehicles.
It shows what appear to be corpses and wounded in Saudi military uniforms. Several troops identified themselves as Saudis.
The kingdom did not immediately acknowledge the attack. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis on behalf of an internationally recognized Yemeni government since 2015.
In the past, the Houthis have claimed that they occupied Saudi villages after cross-border attacks, but often they enter a village, raise a banner, then pull out.
They have also held Saudi soldiers and officers captive in the past, using them as bargaining chips. Usually, they force the soldier to show his ID and speak on camera as proof. This time they did not show IDs.
Yahia Sarie, a spokesman for Houthi forces, claimed in a news conference on Sunday the rebels took captive more than 2,000 troops, without offering evidence.
Yemeni military officials said Sunday the soldiers the Houthis claimed they captured were fighters recruited informally by the Saudi-led coalition to fight inside Saudi Arabian borders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Yemen’s stalemated war has killed tens of thousands of people, badly damaged Yemen’s infrastructure and crippled its health system.
If claims about the attack are found to be credible, it is certain to fuel more concerns in Washington and Riyadh that Iran is behind the rebels’ growing military capabilities, which in recent months have included numerous drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi soil.
It would also help bring credibility to the Houthis’ claims that they had orchestrated the largest ever assault on Saudi oil facilities, on Sept. 14, which temporarily shut down oil production and rattled the global economy. The Trump administration and Riyadh say the attack did not come from Yemen and blame Iran, which has denied the allegation.
The fresh tensions come amid reports in the Wall Street Journal that Saudi Arabia has agreed to a partial cease-fire deal involving four areas in Yemen, including Sanaa, the capital. That follows a surprise offer on Sept. 20 by the Houthis to halt drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition stops launching airstrikes. A few days later, 15 members of one family, including seven children, were reportedly killed in an apparent coalition airstrike in southern Yemen.