Bahrain, Houthis trade blame on truce violation as Saudi-Yemen border attack kills 2 Bahraini soldiers

Bahrain, Houthis trade blame on truce violation as Saudi-Yemen border attack kills 2 Bahraini soldiers
3 min read
26 September, 2023
Two Bahraini soldiers stationed in southern Saudi Arabia were killed in a drone strike Manama has blamed on Houthi militants.
Bahrain was one of several countries that contributed to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen [Getty/archive photo]

Two soldiers from Bahrain were killed along the border between war-torn Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the Bahraini military said on Monday, in an attack highlighting persistent insecurity in the area.

The victims "were martyred while performing their sacred national duty to defend the southern borders of the sister Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", which has led a military coalition against Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015, the military said in a statement.

The incident occurred as Saudi Arabia is pushing for a durable ceasefire nearly a year and a half after agreeing to a truce with the Houthis that has largely held despite officially expiring last October.

The statement from Bahrain's military said the "terrorist act" was perpetrated by Houthi "attack drones" in an undisclosed location in southern Saudi Arabia, "despite the cessation of military operations between the parties to the war in Yemen".

The Saudi coalition did not respond to a request for comment.

However the Houthis' TV channel Al-Masirah reported separately on Monday that "four citizens" were injured in Saudi attacks on Yemeni territory near the border on Monday.

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On Tuesday, the Houthi movement blamed the Saudi-led coalition for breaching the truce, saying that violations have not stopped and 12 Yemeni soldiers were killed in one month along Saudi borders.

Reacting to the death of two Bahraini soldiers, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters violations of the truce were "regrettable".

"We stress the importance of entering into a phase of serious peace... so that requirements of comprehensive and just peace are achieved," he added.

The Saudi foreign ministry condemned the attack on its territory, voicing its "condemnation and denunciation" of a "treacherous attack on the defence force of the sister Kingdom of Bahrain stationed on the southern border of the kingdom, which resulted in the martyrdom of a number of its brave soldiers and the injury of others," the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi statement did not explicitly blame the Iran-backed Houthis for the attack, but it renewed the kingdom's call for a halt to weapons exports to them.

Bahrain was one of several countries that contributed troops to the coalition mobilised by Saudi Arabia after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The ensuing war has left hundreds of thousands dead through direct and indirect causes and displaced millions of people in what the United Nations calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Hopes for peace were boosted in March when Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has backed the Houthis, announced a surprise rapprochement deal.

The following month, Mohammed al-Jaber, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, travelled to Sanaa to meet with Houthi officials in what he described as a bid to "stabilise" last year's truce.

Last week, Houthi officials completed five days of talks in Riyadh, the first public visit by a Houthi delegation to Saudi Arabia since hostilities broke out.

Neither face-to-face meeting has yielded any major announcements, but both sides have described the exchanges as "positive".

The process appears to have snagged on Houthi demands which include payment of their civil servants' salaries by the displaced Yemeni government and the launch of new routes from Sanaa airport.

Also on Monday, Hans Grunberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, concluded a visit to Riyadh for talks on what his office described in a statement as "a sustainable nationwide ceasefire".

Those meetings tackled issues including "measures to improve living conditions in Yemen" and pay public sector salaries, the statement said.

"This is a critical juncture and Yemen needs the support and accompaniment of the region and the international community to navigate the path towards sustainable peace and development," Grundberg said.