Muslim Extremists Force Yemen Jews to Flee to Israel

Yemen's army launches a comprehensive military campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Saada

Three Jewish families from Yemen are scheduled to arrive this week in Israel, a Yemeni rabbi told Reuters yesterday. The move comes after Shi'ite extremist groups aired threats against the community.

Rabbi Yahya Yusuf Musa said the arrivals represent only a small portion of the country's remaining Jewish population of 200-300 people, but expressed concern over the small community dwindling even further.

In June, a group of Yemeni Jews was transferred with government assistance from the war-torn Saada region in the country's north to the capital of Sanaa, after a Jewish man, Moshe Yaish al-Nahari, was murdered by a Muslim assailant.

Two weeks ago, Yemen's army launched a comprehensive campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Saada, including aerial attacks, artillery and tanks. They have already killed 100 rebels, the government said.

The war in Saada has been waged for close to five years, and is fast becoming part of the struggle for power between major regional players Iran and Saudi Arabia. Observers believe Iran is attempting to use the conflict to turn the country - strategically-placed astride the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden - into its own proxy.

Yemen's government announced this week that Iranian weapons were discovered among the rebels' arms caches. Meanwhile, Iranian news outlets reported that Saudi Arabia was working with the Yemeni government to suppress the revolt in the northern region.

The ongoing conflict in Saada is the result of the dissolution of the cease-fire agreement achieved a year ago between the Yemeni government and the al-Houthi family, which has seized the bulk of land in the governorate. Yemeni forces are battling local organizations affiliated with Al-Qaida, as well as tribal groups opposed to the national government.

Two years ago, the Yemeni government launched an armed campaign against the al-Houthi family's control. The move was largely motivated by the government's fear that the family would criticize President Ali Abdullah Saleh's potential succession by his son, drawing widespread public opposition to the transfer of power. The government also sought to demonstrate to militant organizations in the country's south that it was capable of fighting terror.

Army forces, however, struggled to conduct their operations in tribal areas, taking heavy losses and eventually withdrawing. A tenuous deal was ultimately reached with the rebels through Qatari mediation, but was violated two weeks ago as the conflict flared up again, the sixth round of fighting so far.

Now the government is again seeking a cease-fire agreement, but the al-Houthi family has continued waging war against the government and resisted returning to the negotiating table.