Militants’ supply routes cut off as government forces push for embattled Hodeida
Cairo: The Yemeni government has protested to Lebanon against Iran-aligned radical Hezbollah group’s support for Al Houthis.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani sent a “strongly worded” letter to his Lebanese counterpart Jibran Bassil, demanding Beirut to rein in what he termed as the aggressive behaviour of Hezbollah, the Dubai-based television Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.
The government forces, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, are fighting Iran-allied Al Houthis, who seized territory in Yemen in a 2014 coup against the internationally-recognised government.
In a televised address last month, chief of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah declared support for Al Houthis, a gesture that Al Yamani called a “blatant interference” in Yemen’s affairs.
The Yemeni official warned that his country has the right to raise the issue at regional and international forums.
“We are, in the Republic of Yemen, keep our right to take up the issue at the Arab League council, the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the international Security Council,” the minister said in his letter.
The protest comes as Yemeni forces, supported by the Arab Coalition, have regained territory from Al Houthis in a month-long campaigned aimed at expelling the militants from the western city of Hodeida and its crucial port.
Fierce clashes are raging between the pro-government forces and Al Houthis near the historic town of Zabid on the east-southern edges of Hodeida, a military source said on Wednesday.
The forces were able to cut off supply routes for Al Houthis between Zabid and the neighbouring district of Al Tahita that the Yemeni army recaptured days ago, the source added, according to the pro-government website Adan Al Ghad.
Since Al Tahita’s takeover, at least 12 civilians have been killed in intense, indiscriminate shelling by Al Houthis on the district, according to the source.
The Hodeida offensive, the largest in Yemen’s three-year war, is expected to resume soon after a pause in support of hitherto-unsuccessful UN efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks between the warring sides.
In recent weeks, UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has intensified talks to avert an all-out battle in Hodeida and restart talks between the government and Al Houthis.
In his latest bid, he met Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the southern city of Adan on Tuesday.
During the talks, Hadi doubted Al Houthis’ peace intentions, accusing them of stalling amid recent military setbacks, the official news agency Saba reported.
Griffiths said he proposed at his meeting with the Yemeni leader the release and exchange of all prisoners by the warring sides.
Hadi formed a committee led by Prime Minister Ahmad bin Dagher to outline ideas for consultations that precede any direct negotiations with Al Houthis and study Griffiths’ proposals, Saba said.
Al Houthis have been in control of Hodeida since October 2014, a month after they overran the capital Sana’a.
In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition initiated a military campaign in Yemen after Al Houthis advanced on Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.
Saudi King Salman on Tuesday issued a mass pardon for all military personnel engaged in the Yemen campaign, exempting them of “military and disciplinary” penalties, according to the official Saudi news agency SPA.
The agency quoted a royal statement as saying that the pardon comes in appreciations of the “heroics and sacrifices” made by the troops in the Yemen operation codenamed “Restoration of Hope”.