by Alex MacDonald, The Middle East Eye
Saudi Arabia has alleged that Houthi militiamen have carried out suicide attacks on along its border with Yemen.
Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi military, also told reporters on Monday that the Saudi-led coalition currently launching airstrikes against the Houthi militias in Yemen is planning to expand its operations and begin targeting tribal centres known to harbour Houthi fighters and leaders.
He said the coalition had already carried out 129 reconnaissance flights on Sunday in anticipation of the mission, which marks the latest the development in Operation Decisive Storm, which seeks to restore power in Yemen to exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Hussain Albukhaiti, a Houthi spokesperson, dismissed the Saudi allegations about suicide attacks as “lies”.
The Houthis have never been known to carry out suicide attacks before and the news was greeted with scepticism by some.
“Houthi figures i’ve asked have categorically denied that they’d carry out suicide attacks,” said Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“It does not fit with their current modus operandi.”
Media organisations like Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera had previously reported that the Houthis had threatened suicide bombings against Saudi Arabia.
Abdel Mon’em Al-Qurashi, a senior member of the Houthi executive committee, was reported by Fars News in later March as saying that the group would carry out “martyrdom-seeking operations” in the kingdom, an expression taken by media outlets as a euphemism for suicide bombings.
“If Saudi Arabia continues its aggressions against the oppressed Yemeni people, [Houthi] fighters will pave the way for the Saudi regime’s destruction by conducting martyrdom-seeking operations inside Saudi Arabia in the coming hours,” Quraishi told Fars.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has so far claimed at least 740 lives, including at least 74 children.
Bombings against a military depot in the capital Sanaa claimed 38 lives on Monday alone, with a further 532 wounded, among them three employees of Al-Yemen Al-Yawm television channel, including a journalist.
The depot belonged to the elite Republican Guard, a force which remains loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been seen to back the Houthi rebels in their capture of power in Yemen, which accelerated after their seizure of Sanaa in September 2014.
Over 100,000 people are thought to be displaced in the country due to the fighting.
Houthis leader have pledged to keep fighting the Saudi-led coalition until they stop their operations in the country.
“The American-Saudi coalition knows a ground invasion will fail, especially with the continuous advance of the army backed up by the (armed Houthis) on different fronts,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters on Sunday.
Fears have also been raised that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch, could capitalise on the power vacuum created by the bombings.
Though AQAP are opposed to the Saudi government, they are also implacably hostile to the Houthis, whom they regard as heretics.
Since the bombings began AQAP seized an army camp in Hadramawt, an airport and provincial capital Mukalla.
Michael Horton, a Yemen expert close to a number of officers at the US Special Operations Command and a consultant to the US and UK governments, told Al-Jazeera America that he was “confounded” by the Saudi operation as it would inevitably allow AQAP to reassert themselves.
“These constant reports that the Houthis are working for the Iranians are nonsense, but the view is right out of the neocon playbook,” he said. “The Israelis have been touting this line that we lost Yemen to Iran. That’s absurd. The Houthis don’t need Iranian weapons. They have plenty of their own. And they don’t require military training. They’ve been fighting Al-Qaeda since at least 2012, and they’ve been winning.”
“Why are we fighting a movement that’s fighting Al-Qaeda?”