Yemen's Houthi rebels get Iran assurance, ask Saudis to stop strikes

The Houthis rebels waging an insurgency against Yemen's government asked Saudi Arabia to stop its airstrikes against them. The Saudis began the strikes after the Houthis crossed into their border.

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The rebels waging an insurgency against the government in north Yemen asked Saudi Arabia Wednesday to end its attacks on them.

Saudi Arabia launched the airstrikes last week after a cross-border raid by the rebels, known as the Houthis, killed at least one Saudi border guard and wounded 15.

The commander of the Houthis said the airstrikes were "not in the best interest of the two countries," reports the BBC. He also said the Houthis were fighting in self defense, and denied receiving support from Iran.

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it would not stop attacking the rebels until they retreat from its border, reports Reuters. The assistant minister of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, said Saudi Arabia has secured its border against the rebels, but would continue its airstrikes until the Houthis were well away from the border. Also on Tuesday the rebels claimed to have wrested control of more territory from the government.

The Houthis, who are from the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam, claim to be fighting for the rights of the Zaydi Shiite community, which they contend is discriminated against and marginalized in Yemen. They have been fighting Yemen's government for five years, and three months ago the government launched a new offensive in an attempt to quell them.

The conflict has displaced 30,000 Yemenis since mid-August, The Christian Science Monitor reported last month. Thousands more have been displaced in recent days, reports Bloomberg. The UN called for secure routes to deliver aid, warning there may be "widespread suffering" if it is not able to do so.

Yemen, which is majority Sunni, has accused Iran of arming the rebels, something both Iran and the Houthis deny. The Houthis, meanwhile, have accused Saudi Arabia of allowing Yemen to launch its own attacks on the Houthis from Saudi soil, which both nations deny. This has raised the possibility of a proxy war between regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran in poverty-stricken Yemen, whose weak government is already fighting a separatist movement in the south and a growing Al Qaeda organization.

Iran offered to help Yemen restore stability Wednesday, after warning Yemen's neighbors to stay out of the conflict Tuesday, reports Agence France-Presse. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for a "collective approach" to "restore security, peace and tranquillity" in Yemen, according to the news agency.

It was a departure from his remarks Tuesday:

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia is deeply troubled by the unrest on its border, and likely launched the airstrikes as a warning.

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