Houthis claim major operation inside Saudi Arabia

Yemen’s Houthi insurgents have reported a huge assault on multiple fronts inside Saudi Arabia’s southern Najran province and on the border area with Yemen. Massive personnel and material losses are reported, though Saudi officials have yet to comment on the raids.

On Saturday, the Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Saree, announced that a major operation inside Najran dubbed “Victory from God” had been launched. However, in a later press conference yesterday, Saree noted that the operations had been occurring since August 25.

Saree added that the operation was the biggest of its kind since the war began over four years ago. According to the spokesman, over 300 assaults were carried out over the course of the operation.

Saree, via the Houthi-ran news channel Al Masirah, also claimed that “thousands” of Saudi troops were captured in the attacks and that three entire Saudi brigades surrendered to the Houthi militants.

He also stated that many other troops were killed in the battles and that “hundreds of kilometers of territory had been liberated.” According to the spokesman, the operation utilized several facets of the Houthi war machine, including its armored and missile battalions.

Saudi officials have so far not commented on the purported raids. But yesterday, the Houthis released video footage claiming to show the aftermath of the battles.

If Saree is accurate in that the operations did start in late August, it is more than likely that the video released is an amalgamation of clips over the past month and not from last weekend as previously claimed and reported.

Hundreds of Saudi troops and tribal fighters, many of which appear to be Yemeni, are shown being captured by the Houthi fighters. Many of the tribal fighters are members of the Saudi-backed Al Fateh Brigade which is comprised of local Yemenis and based in Najran.

It is unlikely, however, that the numbers shown are near the claimed number of two thousand troops from three distinct Saudi brigades.

That said, dozens of military vehicles, including MRAPs and APCs, including the American-made M113, can be seen either destroyed or captured by the militants.

Markings on the vehicles clearly indicate that they belonged to a unit within the Saudi National Guard, indicating that the raids likely did take place within the border region.

Indeed, the pro-Saudi militia Al Fateh Brigade, whose logo was clearly featured in some of the clips, released a video on its Facebook account on Sept. 1 from Kitaf in Yemen’s Saadah Province near the borders with Saudi Arabia. This combat footage is most certainly from the Houthi offensive.

The Houthis even make a point to show Mohammad Nasser al Atefi, its defense minister, driving a captured American-made Oshkosh M-ATV marked with the Saudi National Guard logo after inspecting the “spoils.”

Hundreds of small arms are also shown laid out as “spoils,” as is the copious amounts of ammunition captured. Dozens of killed Saudi troops and tribal allies are also shown throughout the video. Captured Saudi National Guard soldiers can also be seen.

While FDD’s Long War Journal cannot independently verify claims made by the Houthi movement, it is evident from the video and subsequent photos that hundreds of Saudi troops and allied tribal fighters have indeed been killed or captured in recent weeks.

However, this means the Saudi-led coalition has not commented on the massive levels of sustained losses for over a month. The Saudis are either trying to downplay the severity of the situation or the state has not yet figured out how to respond to the loss.

The massive operation came as the Houthis announced a unilateral ceasefire. The militants said that they would halt attacks inside Saudi territory.

But this ceasefire came with a caveat. Mahdi al Mashat, the Houthi official that announced the ceasefire, added that “we reserve the right to respond if they [the Saudis] fail to reciprocate positively” to the move.

But only two days ago, as the Houthi operation was reportedly still underway, Saudi agreed to a ceasefire. Indeed, Bloomberg reported that negotiations were underway to expand the ceasefire agreement.

After four years of conflict between the Houthi insurgents and the Saudi-led coalition, it is clear that the Houthis retain the capabilities to strike inside Saudi territory and inflict mass amounts of damage.

Coupled with the Houthis ballistic missile and drone capabilities, the movement still remains a potent adversary to the Saudis and their allies.

Article updated with new information and corrections to the start of the Houthi offensive on Sept. 30, 2019.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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