Yemen’s Houthi fighters say Saudi warplanes have launched more than 70 air-strikes in the north of the country. According to Houthi fighters, Saudi planes bombed villages in the provinces of
Sa’ada and al-Jawf late on Thursday. The fighters further added that the Saudi military heavily pounded northern areas with rockets, tanks and mortars overnight. The conflict in northern Yemen began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters. Relative peace had returned to the region until August 11, when the Yemeni army launched a major offensive, dubbed Operation Scorched Earth, against Sa’ada Province. The government claims that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 military coup. The Houthis, however, say they are defending their people’s civil rights, which the government has undermined under pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists. Shias, who form the clear majority in the north, make up approximately half of Yemen’s overall population. Saudi Arabia joined the Yemeni government’s war against the Houthis in November. As Sana’a does not allow independent media into the conflict zone, there are no clear estimates available as to how many people have been killed in the Shia province of Sa’ada since 2004 or in the recent wave of violence.