96 Saudi border villages may be evacuated soon

Yemeni tribes right across the border have approached Saudi authorities seeking protection

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The Border Guard has reported the authorities are assessing 96 Saudi villages on or near the Kingdom’s border with Yemen to determine if they should be evacuated as a precaution against any potential attacks from Houthi rebels.

Al-Dayer Bani Malik Border Guard head Col. Ibrahim Shrahili said Yemeni tribes right across the border have approached Saudi authorities seeking protection.

“The Houthi threat has escalated as they no longer only hurt people on the streets but knock on people’s doors and barge into their homes. The Yemenis have no hope for protection but us and we have promised them that we will do our best and have instructed them to stay inside their homes,” said Col. Shrahili.

He added the border region is an extremely dangerous area where the sounds of gunshots and military jets flying maneuvers overhead are a near constant.

“If you climb up Mount Shahdan and stand on top of the 1,600-feet-high apex, you can see the Yemeni villages near the border. You can also see with your bare eyes the destruction the Houthis have caused,” said Col. Shrahili.

He also said Mount Shahdan is where Border Guard units are based as its height gives Saudi forces a vantage point from where they can be alerted to any threat and respond accordingly.

“The height of the mountain alone is daunting. Not even cars can easily drive up it. We already place the enemy at a disadvantage of location. Our guards climb up and down the mountain every day and some stay there,” added Col. Shrahili.

The mountain, which is only 400 meters away from the Kingdom’s border with Yemen, gives Saudi forces a tactical advantage against Houthi rebels and smugglers who may try to take advantage of the war to peddle drugs and arms across the border.

“Many criminals and smugglers take advantage of war time, when the security apparatus is too busy to pay much attention to their trivial crimes, to get away with their mischief. Smugglers train donkeys to carry and smuggle their illegal items across the borders. The Border Guard cannot afford to overlook any attempt to undermine security,” said Col. Shrahili.

“We have three young boys who were captured after they were spotted trying to sneak across the border. They claimed they were looking for their donkeys but smugglers will often use children as a cover for their smuggling activities,” he added.

Trained donkeys are in high demand and handlers will charge anywhere between SR150 and SR200 per trip.

“We are currently living under incessant and constant threat and the Border Guard will not relent nor let its guard down. No one can be trusted. One of the tribes that approached us for protection, reported another close tribe has Houthi sympathizers,” he said.

According to Col. Shrahili, despite the war and threats of attack by the Houthis, Al-Dayer Bani Malik remains a safe and secure place.

“Its terrain and mountains and valleys make it harder for outsiders to navigate in. Throughout Operation Decisive Storm and the Houthi attacks, Al-Dayer Bani Malik was not hit once. In addition, guards and officers have swarmed into the area to protect it from arms smugglers buying and trading weapons only 500 meters away in Yemen,” he said while adding smuggling attempts have decreased and most of the people caught trying to cross into the Kingdom are African expatriates fleeing Yemen.

*This story was originally posted in Saudi Gazette.