Saudi Arabia reassesses Yemen strategy

Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been ac­cused of running secret detention centres.

Ships docked next to giant cranes at a container terminal at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. (Reuters)

2017/04/09 Issue: 101 Page: 10

The Arab Weekly
Saleh Baidhani

Sana’a - Saudi Arabia is in the pro­cess of a comprehensive review of the situation in war-torn Yemen, based on experiences and intel­ligence collected over the last two years, as it and the Arab coalition it leads fight in support of the gov­ernment forces against Houthi re­bels, sources said.

Saudi Arabia hosted senior Yem­eni tribal leaders in Riyadh on April 2nd to consider options outside tra­ditional considerations, which have been proven ineffective taking con­trol of the country, they said.

Yemeni media reported that Ha­mid al-Ahmar, a high-ranking al- Islah party member living in exile in Istanbul, was not invited to the Riyadh meeting but showed up an­yway. Ahmar was prevented from joining the meetings after other tribal attendees accused him of trying to circumvent the proceed­ings in favour of his party, which angered the organisers.

Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been ac­cused of running secret detention centres, a newly released report by the National Committee for Hu­man Rights in Yemen said. The re­port said the rebels and Saleh sup­porters set up 480 secret prisons in Yemeni provinces under their control. Most of the prisoners were said to be arrested arbitrarily and subjected to severe torture, the re­port said.

The report also said Houthi and Saleh militias were using child soldiers, most of whom were ab­ducted “children from schools and sent to the scenes of military op­erations”.

Arab coalition forces, in coor­dination with a number of inter­national organisations, including the International Red Cross and UNICEF, recently handed over 52 children recruited on the Yemeni- Saudi border.

Both sides in the 2-year-old con­flict have been preparing for ma­jor military engagement over the Houthi-controlled port of Hodei­dah, despite the United Nations urging both sides to stand down. The port has been used to receive basic necessities and medicinal aid. However, the coalition at war with the Houthis has said militias were using the facility to receive smug­gled arms from Iran.

Writing in Newsweek, Yemeni Ambassador to the United States Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak said: “For the Houthis, Hodeidah’s port proves to be a source of significant, albeit illegitimate, revenue from customs and taxes imposed on in­coming goods. Recapturing Hodei­dah is necessary to bring back sta­bility to Yemen’s west coast.”

The war in Yemen began when Shia Houthis and their allies over­ran Sana’a in September 2014 and seized most of the country. A Sau­di-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight. The war has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Saleh Baidhani is an Arab Weekly contributor based in Sana’a.

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