Over 80 Soldiers Killed In Yemen Missile, Drone Attack

A member of Yemen’s southern separatist-dominated Security Belt Forces stands guard during a meeting of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southern city of Aden, on January 13, 2020.
Saleh Al-OBEIDI / AFP

 

More than 80 Yemeni soldiers have been killed and scores injured in a missile and drone attack blamed on Huthi rebels in central Yemen, medical and military sources said Sunday.

Saturday’s strike follows months of relative calm in the war between the Iran-backed Huthis and Yemen’s internationally recognised government, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.

The Huthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in the central province of Marib — about 170 kilometres (105 miles) east of the capital Sanaa — during evening prayers, military sources told AFP.

A medical source at a Marib city hospital, where the casualties were transported, said that 83 soldiers were killed and 148 injured in the strike.

Death tolls in Yemen’s grinding conflict are often disputed, but the huge casualty list in Marib represents one of the bloodiest single attacks since the war erupted in 2014 when the rebels seized Sanaa.

Saudi-owned Al-Hadath television broadcast a video that it said showed the gruesome aftermath of the attack.

Body parts can be seen on the floor, among shredded debris, and with blood pooled on the carpet and spattered against the walls.

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The drone and missile strike came a day after coalition-backed government forces launched a large-scale operation against the Huthis in the Nihm region, north of Sanaa.

Fighting in Nihm was ongoing on Sunday, a military source said according to the official Saba news agency.

“Dozens from the (Huthi) militia were killed and injured,” the source added.

Members of Yemen’s southern separatist-dominated Security Belt Forces stand guard during a meeting of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southwestern coastal city of Aden, on January 13, 2020.
Saleh Al-OBEIDI / AFP

‘De-Escalation Cannot Be Sustained’

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” attack on the mosque, Saba reported.

“The disgraceful actions of the Huthi militia without a doubt confirm its unwillingness to (achieve) peace, because it knows nothing but death and destruction and is a cheap Iranian tool in the region,” it quoted Hadi as saying.

The president also stressed the importance of increasing military vigilance “to foil hostile and destructive plans and maintain security and stability”.

The Huthis did not make any immediate claim of responsibility and the Saba report did not give a death toll.

The uptick in violence comes shortly after United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed a sharp reduction in air strikes and the movement of ground forces.

“We are surely, and I hope this is true and I hope it will remain so, witnessing one of the quietest periods of this conflict,” he said in a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

“Experience however tells us that military de-escalation cannot be sustained without political progress between the parties, and this has become the next challenge.”

A year after Yemen’s warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered truce for the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and its surroundings, fighting in the province has subsided but the slow implementation of the deal has quashed hopes for an end to the conflict.

The landmark agreement signed in Sweden in December 2018 had been hailed as Yemen’s best chance so far to end the fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in the war that has ravaged the country, triggering what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict to back the government against the Huthis in March 2015, shortly after the rebels seized control of Sanaa.

A senior UN official warned Thursday that certain key factors that threatened to trigger a famine in Yemen last year were once again looming large, including a plunge in the value of the national currency.

“With a rapidly depreciating rial and disrupted salary payments, we are again seeing some of the key conditions that brought Yemen to the brink of famine a year ago,” Ramesh Rajasingham, who coordinates humanitarian aid in Yemen, told the UN Security Council.

“We must not let that happen again,” he said.

AFP

Saudi-led Air Strikes Kill Eight Yemen Rebels – Sources

Saudi-led air strikes have killed 28 Huthi rebels south of the port of Hodeida on Yemen’s west coast, medics and security sources close to the insurgents said Friday.

The reports came as the UN refugee agency UNHCR warned of a new displacement of civilians in the area.

The security sources said the air strikes on Thursday and Friday hit five towns controlled by the Huthis around 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of Hodeida.

Medical sources said 28 Huthis were killed and 17 others wounded in the strikes.

There has been no let-up in the air campaign against the rebels that a Saudi-led coalition has been waging since March 2015.

The air strikes have intensified since the December 4 killing of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh at the hands of the Huthis after his alliance with the rebels collapsed.

At the same time forces of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government have stepped up attacks on the rebels and last week retook the Red Sea town of Khokha from the Huthis.

The security sources said new clashes broke out Friday as government forces tried to push towards Hodeida.

UNHCR said it was “bracing for further displacement and a spike in humanitarian needs as hostilities intensify in frontline areas on Yemen’s west coast”.

Hodeida is the main conduit for UN-supervised deliveries of food and medicine but the rebel-held port is controlled by the Huthis and remains closed, forcing the UN to divert aid supplies to other areas.

“To date we have deployed emergency relief items for 2,000 families in Hodeida, and a further 2,000 aid kits are on their way along with 2,000 emergency shelter kits,” the UNHCR said in a statement.

“As the port of Hodeida remains closed an additional 43 containers with emergency, shelter and household aid, including plastic tarpaulins and blankets for more than 20,000 families, had to be diverted to Aden,” it added.

More than 2,000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8,600 killed in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and rebels since 2015.

AFP