Yemen - Civil War

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Houthi rebels push reinforcements to south Hodiedah
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15 May، 2019


Houthi rebel militia sent more combat reinforcements to the western province Hodiedah.

Dozens of Houthi militants and large number of combat vehicles and equipment were sent to the districts of Al-Tohaita and Hais southern Hodiedah.

Meanwhile, the Houthi militia targeted with mortar rounds and B10 shells the positions of national army in Al-Tohaita district.

 

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Saudi Arabia and UAE provide $70m to help Yemeni teachers
UNICEF said the agreement would help 3.7 million Yemeni children to complete their studies.

Arab News
May 16, 2019
  • Money will boost the salaries of 135,000 teaching staff
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE will provide $70 million in financial support to Yemeni teachers, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The initiative announced Wednesday comes as many Yemeni teachers have not received their salaries.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabiah, General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, said the money would boost the salaries of 135,000 teaching staff and ensure schools continue to provide education for Yemeni children.

“The project benefits 136,799 people in the governorates of Ibb, Amanah, Al-Bayda, Hajja, Dhamar, Saada, Sanaa, Amran, Mahweet and Rima,” he said.

The $70 million will be provided equally by the Kingdom and the UAE.

The program was announced in Riyadh at a ceremony attended by Sultan Mohammed Al-Shamsi, Assistant Minister for International Development, and Al Tayeb Adam, UNICEF representative to the Gulf States.

Adam said the agreement would help 3.7 million Yemeni children to complete their studies within their country.
“Since last year, these countries have contributed $300 million to UNICEF in support of nutrition, health, education and the cholera epidemic in Yemen,” Adam said.

 

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Saudi Arabia Demands UN to Disarm Houthi Militias
15 May, 2019


Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi. (Getty Images)

New York - Ali Barada

Saudi Arabia urged the United Nations Security Council to take urgent measures to disarm the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen and prevent an escalation in regional tensions.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates submitted complaints to the UN over the dangerous targeting of four commercial tankers of the UAE’s Fujairah coast and its threat to the security and safety of international marine navigation, as well as the attack against oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia.

In an address to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and head of the Security Council, Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi said that seven drones targeted Saudi infrastructure, adding that they were flown by the Houthis in Yemen towards the pumping stations in Al Duwadimi and Afif.

The attack targeted the East-West pipeline that transports Saudi oil from Yanbu port to the rest of the world, he went on to say.

At a time when the Houthis claim full responsibility to this attack, deeming it a “victory”, such a development will only lead to further escalation in the region, he warned.

Mouallimi stressed that Saudi Arabia supports the efforts exerted by UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and redeployment team to implement the Stockholm agreement on Yemen, warning, however, that such attacks undermine these efforts.

He reiterated that Riyadh calls for the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions that should deter the Houthis from using the Hodeidah port as a platform for several of their terrorist attacks.

He also demanded that immediate measures be taken to tackle the Houthis’ weapons caches to disarm this terrorist militia and avert an escalation in regional tensions and attacks.

 

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Yemen confirms commitment to UN resolutions, Stockholm agreement
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16 May، 2019

The Government of Yemen has renewed its clear position of committing to UN Security Council’s resolutions 2216, 2451 and 2452 and Stockholm agreement, rejecting any measure not subjected to control standards made by the resolutions.

The government renewed readiness for serious work on implementing all articles of Stockholm agreement on Hodeida, Taiz and releasing prisoners, kidnapped and forcibly disappeared people.

Yemen’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Abdullah al-Sa’adi said in Yemen’s speech in the Security Council held Wednesday that if
Houthi militia’s withdrawal from ports happened without monitor and approval of Redeploying Committee-by its three parties- will represent violation to what happened during the past months agreement and failure to the international community’s efforts as it provides free of charge service to Houthi militia to repeat the unilateral play it played in Hodeida Port in December 2018.

The government of Yemen confirms its right of checking any step to be implemented as part of Stockholm agreement and examining lists of coast guard forces, which will take over the ports after Houthi withdrawal from them before talking on any step to follow, said al-Sa’adi, confirming Yemen’s right on monitoring the withdrawal within the UN resolutions and through Redeploying Committee.

The government of Yemen confirmed also that Stockholm agreement came as a confidence-building step needed for inclusive solution to Yemen’s crisis and failure of Houthi militia in dealing with the international community and the government of Yemen for establishing necessary confidence will make them unreliable party as fingers to Iran.

It also confirmed that that proceeding towards peace and ending suffering of Yemeni people is not possible without taking serious position from the Security Council and exerting pressure on Houthi militia to implement Stockholm agreement.

“The United Nations should have sought to implement the agreements and must not accept such explicitform of fallacies as Houthi rebel militia’s rejection of peace chances and their will of prolonging and increasing suffering of Yemeni people confirm repeated expressions of the government of Yemen that these militias are not serious in submission to peace and responding to UN efforts,” he said.

He added that Houthi militia’s evasion from implementing the first phase agreement presented by the Head of the Redeployment Committee and agreed upon by the government of Yemen and Houthi militia is an attempt by Houthi militia to implement it away from any reference and consensus.

“Five months have passed since reaching to Stockholm agreement between the government of Yemen and Houthi militia and our Yemeni enduring people had hope this step would be the beginning of the end of the tragedy inflicted this great people over those militia’s coup and destroying its capabilities and economic, social and cultural abilities,” said Yemen’s Representative to the United Nations Abdullah al-Sa’adi.

Unfortunately, Houthi militia seized these agreements and every step for peace and political solution for investing time and regrouping and sending more military reinforcements to commit crimes against Yemeni people in their held-areas in stark breach to all humanitarian values and norms, he added.

He called upon the Security Council to exert pressure on Houthi militia to implement the agreement of exchanging prisoners, detainees, forcibly disappeared people and people under house arrest with the principle of ” all for all” agreed upon before Stockholm agreement as this issue is humanitarian must not be subjected to political gains.

He also called for exerting pressure on Houthi militia to end chains and obstacles imposed by the militia on food and medicine assistances and ensuring their arrival to beneficiaries in their held-areas.


 

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Arab Coalition Launches Raids on Military Targets Loyal to Houthis
Thursday, 16 May, 2019


A woman displaced from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah pulls empty canisters outside her family shelter in Sanaa, Yemen November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi/File Photo

Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen carried out several air strikes on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday after the Iranian-aligned movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks on Saudi oil installations.

A coalition statement said the alliance struck military bases, facilities, and weapons storage sites with the aim of “neutralizing the ability of the Houthi militia to carry out acts of aggression”.

“The sorties achieved their goals with full precision,” the coalition said. It had urged civilians to avoid those targets.

The statement stressed the Coalition's resolve to follow all terrorist elements across all of Yemen, all in accordance with International Humanitarian Law and its Customs.

Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister Khalid bin Salman said: "The Houthi attack on Saudi Aramco oil pipes prove their loyalty to Iran," adding that, "Houthis are a tool to advance Iranian agenda in the region."

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that armed drones attacked two oil pumping stations in the kingdom but did not disrupt output or exports. The Houthis said they were responsible.

Saudi Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubair, said the attack on Saudi oil pipes was ordered by Iran and the militants are an inseparable part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"Attacks by the Houthi militia that is supported by Iran on oil installations in Saudi Arabia are a war crime," the coalition said.

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that the Western-backed coalition, of which it is a main member, would "retaliate hard" for any Houthi attacks on coalition targets.

The Sanaa air strikes and renewed fighting in Yemen's Hodeidah port that breached a UN-sponsored truce in the Red Sea city, could complicate peace efforts to end the four-year war that has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The coalition, which receives arms and intelligence from Western nations, intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore Hadi's government, now based in the southern port of Aden.

The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis deny being puppets of Tehran and say their revolution is against corruption.

The warring parties agreed last December at UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden on a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis that became the focus of the war last year.

The pact, the first major breakthrough in over four years, stalled for months amid deep suspicion among all parties, but special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some progress when the Houthis started withdrawing from three ports last Saturday.

Pro-coalition troops are expected to pull back as well under the deal once the two sides work out details for a broader phase two redeployment in Hodeidah, the main entry point for Yemen's commercial and aid imports and the Houthis' key supply line.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE accuse the group of smuggling Iranian weapons, including missiles that have been launched at Saudi cities. The Houthis and Tehran deny the accusations.


 

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Abdul-Malik al-Houthi: Military escalation will extend to depths of enemy states
16 May 2019

His comments came only a day after two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia were targeted by explosive-laden drones. (Screengrab)
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English

Yemen’s Houthi militias are developing more military capabilities, which have “proven their effectiveness”, but what’s to come is “bigger and greater”, the militias’ leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in a recorded speech shared by al-Masirah TV on Wednesday.

“The fifth year (of war) is the year where there is more and more development of military capabilities. We do not need to explain the effectiveness of these capabilities- they have proven their importance and effectiveness. But what’s to come is bigger and greater, and we will leave the proof of that to the application and actual results,” al-Houthi said.

His comments came only a day after two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia were targeted by explosive-laden drones, an attack which the Houthi militias claimed. They were located in Saudi Arabia’s town of Al al-Duwadimi and the city of Afif.

The Kingdom, as well as several Arab countries, said that it was a “cowardly act of terror aimed at destruction”, and “a serious threat to the regional and international security, and the world economy.”

The militia-sponsored al-Masirah report stated that this was al-Houthi’s first television interview. Al-Houthi said that there is current production of weapons, but the details of this are secret.

“The details will remain secret, but there is production of important, suitable and effective weapons… The missiles are able to reach Riyadh, and beyond Riyadh, to Abu Dhabi, to Dubai, to vital and sensitive targets- and they know what we mean by vital, sensitive and influential targets. I hope this message reaches them, and that they understand it well,” al-Houthi said.

 

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Saudi-led coalition in Yemen strikes Sanaa, casualties reported
May 16, 2019
Abdulrahman Al-Ansi

SANAA (Reuters) - The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen carried out several air strikes on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday after the Iranian-aligned movement claimed responsibility for drone attacks on Saudi oil installations.

The Sanaa strikes targeted nine military sites in and around the city, residents said, with humanitarian agencies reporting a number of casualties.

Rubble filled a populated street lined by mud-brick houses, a Reuters journalist on the scene said. A crowd of men lifted the body of a women, wrapped in a white shroud, into an ambulance.

Houthi-run Masirah television quoted the Houthi health ministry as saying six civilians, including four children, had been killed and 60 wounded, including two Russian women working in the health sector.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said two hospitals it supports in Sanaa took in 48 injured and four dead people as a result of the strikes.

Preliminary reports indicated five children were among those killed, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen said.

A coalition statement carried by Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV, said the Sunni Muslim alliance struck military bases and facilities and weapons storage sites with the aim of “neutralising the ability of the Houthi militia to carry out acts of aggression”.

“The sorties achieved its goals with full precision,” the coalition said. It had urged civilians to avoid those targets.

A later statement said “the possibility of an accident” had been referred to a body set up by the coalition to investigate claims.

One resident reported a strike near a densely-populated district, where flames and clouds of smoke could be seen. A car was half-buried under rubble and twisted metal on a street lined with bystanders.

“There was an air strike near us, in the middle of an area packed with residents between Hael and Raqas (streets),” Abdulrazaq Mohammed told Reuters. “The explosion was so strong that stones were flying. This is the first time our house shakes so much.”

Sanaa has been held by the Houthi movement since it ousted the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power there in late 2014. The coalition has previously targeted suspected drone and missile storage sites in the city.

“IRANIAN TOOLS”
Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister on Thursday accused Iran of ordering Tuesday’s armed drone attack on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom.

“The terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

The Houthis said they were responsible for the attack, which did not disrupt oil output or exports. The group denies being a puppet of Tehran or receiving arms from Iran, and says its revolution is against corruption.

The head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee denied that Iran directed the strike and said the movement manufactures its drones locally. Tehran also denies providing arms to the Houthis.

“We are not agents for anyone,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi told Reuters. “We make decisions independently and do not take orders for drones or anything else.”

The coalition described the drone attack as a “war crime”.

The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that the Western-backed coalition, of which it is a main member, would “retaliate hard” for any Houthi attacks on coalition targets.

The Sanaa air strikes and renewed fighting in Yemen’s Hodeidah port that breached a U.N.-sponsored truce in the Red Sea city, could complicate peace efforts to end the four-year war that has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The coalition, which receives arms and intelligence from Western nations, intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore Hadi’s Aden-based government.

The warring parties agreed last December at U.N.-sponsored peace talks on a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis that became the focus of the war last year.

The pact, the first major breakthrough in over four years, stalled for months amid deep suspicion among all parties, but special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some progress when the Houthis started withdrawing from three ports last Saturday.

Pro-coalition troops are expected to pull back as well under the deal once the two sides work out details for a broader phase two redeployment in Hodeidah, the main entry point for Yemen’s commercial and aid imports and the Houthis’ key supply line.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden, Reuters team in Sanaa and Asma Alsharif and Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Angus MacSwan and Toby Chopra

 

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Yemen combatants wide apart on sharing vital port revenues
May 16, 2019
Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - Yemen’s warring parties on Thursday failed to agree on how to manage revenues from Hodeidah port that could help relieve the urgent humanitarian needs of millions, delegates and U.N. sources at U.N.-facilitated discussions in Jordan said.

Both sides differed in separate talks with U.N. teams on how the central bank, which is split into rival head offices, should handle revenues from Hodeidah, a vital import hub, and Yemen’s other main Red Sea ports of Saleef and Ras Isa, delegates said.

The war has devastated Yemen’s economy, exacerbating an urgent humanitarian crisis with millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation. Soaring prices have put basic commodities out of reach for many Yemenis and the central bank has struggled to pay public-sector salaries as foreign exchange reserves evaporated.

The United Nations said the talks between the Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed government had on their agenda how to manage the revenues from the three ports and how to use them to pay public sector employees’ salaries.

The talks convened less than a week after the Houthis began a unilateral pullout from these ports, handing them over to U.N.-supervised local forces as agreed under a pact with the government last December that had stalled for months.

The Yemeni Central Bank was moved from the capital Sanaa to the southern port of Aden after the Houthi movement ousted the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power there in late 2014.

The government delegation at the Amman talks said the insistence of the Houthis not to allow the transfer of port revenues to their central bank office in Aden, the seat of the Riyadh-backed government, meant they had no intention of implementing the economic provisions of the peace deal.

“Their insistence to divide the Central Bank and its revenues and to send the port revenues to Sanaa means they decided to fail the talks,” Mohammad al-Omrani, a spokesman of the Yemeni government and member of the team, told Reuters.

The Houthi delegation said they wanted future revenues to be put in a special account under international supervision in the central bank’s Hodeidah branch that is run by their administration in Sanaa, the Houthi-controlled capital.

Aid officials say hundreds of thousands of civil servants have not received their salaries in more than two years, depriving health, education and sanitation services of the people and resources needed to keep them running.

“We are saying let’s open a special account where the revenues of the ports are placed and under international supervisions and from which salaries are spent to the benefit of all Yemenis without capitalizing on this politically,” said Ahmed Al Shami, head of the economic committee in the Houthi delegation to the talks.

He added that the Houthis had no trust in the monetary authorities overseen by the Riyadh-backed government.

“They did not prove their capability in running the monetary policy or exchange rate or liquidity,” he added, citing rising living costs fluctuations in the local currency that have worsened the plight of Yemenis across the political divide.

The United Nations, faced with a deadlock over the differing interpretations on sharing port revenues, has put forward a compromise plan to be discussed in another round of talks expected sometime next month, Al Shami told Reuters.

“It’s a good proposal to an extent,” he added saying it could be the basis of an agreement. He did not elaborate.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Editing by William Maclean

 

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Bomb-laden drones of Yemen rebels threaten Arabian Peninsula
By JON GAMBRELL
16 May 2019



In this undated photograph obtained by The Associated Press, a UAV-X drone flown by Yemen's Houthi rebels is seen in Hodeida, Yemen. A Yemen rebel drone strike this week, likely by UAV-Xs, on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world's busiest. (AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Yemen rebel drone strike this week on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world’s busiest.

U.N. investigators said the Houthis’ new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles).

That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main opponents of the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, within reach of drones difficult to detect and track. Their relatively simple design, coupled with readily available information online, makes targeting even easier, analysts say.

“These installations are easily findable like on Google Earth,” said Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons technology with experience in Yemen.

“Once you get in the vicinity, that alone has that kind of effect of showing that the reach is there.”

The drone attacks come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S., a year after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The White House has ordered an aircraft carrier and bombers into the region over a still-unexplained threat from Iran, while nonessential employees at U.S. diplomatic posts in Iraq have been ordered to leave the country.

On Sunday, the United Arab Emirates alleged four oil tankers off its eastern coast were targeted by sabotage. On Tuesday, the Houthis say they launched seven drones to target Saudi Arabia. The drones stuck pumping stations along the kingdom’s crucial East-West Pipeline, causing minor damage, Saudi officials say.

A satellite photo obtained by The Associated Press of one of the pumping stations showed two black marks near where the pipeline passes that weren’t there the day before.

In the months after the March 2015 start of the war in Yemen, Houthi rebels began using drones in combat. The first appeared to be off-the-shelf, hobby-kit-style drones. Later, versions nearly identical to Iranian models turned up. Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons, although the U.N., the West and Gulf Arab nations say Tehran does.

The rebels have flown drones into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia’s Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Houthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

Some have been used for surveillance purposes, while others have been loaded with explosives and ball bearings to deadly effect. In January, a bomb-laden Houthi drone detonated at a military parade near Aden, killing at least six people, including the commander of military intelligence for Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Saudi officials haven’t offered any photographs of the sites attacked, nor given any explanation of what kind of drone the Houthis used Tuesday.

However, the UAV-X is a likely culprit.

The drone, with a wingspan of 4.5 meters (14.7 feet), has a V-shaped tail fin. It’s powered by a rear-mounted engine and has been found with what appears to be extra fuel tanks welded it to, a U.N. panel of experts found. It carries a 18-kilogram (40-pound) warhead.

The drone is likely programmed to strike a specific latitude and longitude and cannot be controlled once out of radio range, Michetti said. In the case of Tuesday’s attack, the latitude and longitude of the pumping stations could be easily found online.

The U.N. put the drone’s maximum range at 1,500 kilometers.

“It would give credence to the claims by the Houthis that they have the capability to hit targets such as Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” the U.N. panel said.

For Saudi Arabia, that range puts the oil fields of its Eastern Province in range. Saudi Aramco declined to comment when reached by the AP.
In the neighboring UAE, an immediate target is the under-construction Barakah nuclear power plant, which is deep in its western desert. The $20 billion, four-reactor plant being built with help from South Korea, has been considered a target by the Houthis since December 2017, when they claimed without offering evidence to have fired a cruise missile at it, something immediately denied by the UAE.

Asked about the possible drone threat, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation said it had “in place regulations to ensure the protection of the nuclear power plant from all kinds of threats, including physical or cyberattacks,” without elaborating.

Also within reach is the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, a crucial link in worldwide global travel. Dubai International Airport bills itself as the world’s busiest for international travel.

Officials at the airport declined to comment, referring the AP to the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority. The authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Houthis have claimed without evidence to have targeted both airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, something denied by authorities.

Speaking to journalists Wednesday night, a top Emirati diplomat sought to play down the danger faced by the federation of seven sheikhdoms, while still acknowledging the threats to regional stability.

“We live in a region where we can’t come and be happy because we are the only house in the neighborhood that has not been arsoned or burgled,” said Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs.
___
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

 

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Iran's elite naval forces said to pass skills to proxy fighters
May 17, 2019
Babak Dehghanpisheh, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) - An unmanned Iranian boat skips over the waves at full speed and rams into a U.S. aircraft carrier, sending up an orange fireball and plumes of smoke.
That attack against a mock-up U.S. warship was part of elaborate naval war games carried out by the elite Revolutionary Guards in 2015. Dozens of speedboats, ships firing missiles, and helicopters were involved. Video of the exercise ran on state TV for hours.

U.S. officials are now concerned that Iran has passed this naval combat expertise on to proxy forces in the region, whom Washington blames for attacks against four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

Iranian officials denied involvement and said their enemies carried out the attacks in order to lay the groundwork for war against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has not addressed the issue of training proxies, but has warned that its allies in the region have the weapons and capability to target enemies if Iranian interests are threatened.

Tensions have spiked between Iran and the United States, which sent more military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what U.S. officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a major 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions in order to cut off Iran’s oil exports. This was supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which said they would increase oil production to keep prices stable.

The Revolutionary Guards, designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by Washington last month, have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which one fifth of the world’s oil consumption flows, if Iran is not able to export oil.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad began evacuating some staff this week in apparent concern about perceived threats from Iran.

If Iran or one of its proxies was involved in the tanker attacks, which did not sink any of the ships or cause fatalities, it was a warning message, experts say.

DENIABLE

“Iran’s actions are conducted in a manner which are both understood by the world to be conducted by Iran, but not to the extent that the international community can justify a response. In this way, the actions are attributable but deniable,” said Norman Roule, a former senior CIA officer with experience in Middle East issues.

“Attacks against oil tankers produce tremendous publicity for Iran and raise oil prices. The latter has a direct, if temporary, impact on the economies of China and Western Europe, and Iran likely believes this will compel them to pressure the U.S. to make concessions to avoid future such attacks.”

The tanker attacks on Sunday, followed by armed drone attacks on two of Saudi Aramco’s oil pumping stations on Tuesday, pushed up global oil prices, which by Thursday had jumped nearly 4%.

The United Arab Emirates said an investigation was under way into the sabotage attacks, stressing it was committed to de-escalation during a “difficult situation” caused by Iranian behavior in the region.
Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering the drone attacks on its oil pipelines. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis, who have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for four years, had earlier claimed responsibility.

The techniques used in the attacks against the tankers off the Emirates’ coast were not particularly sophisticated, observers with military and intelligence experience say.

The ships may have been damaged by floating or magnetic mines placed by a team of divers, according to these observers.

Iran has experienced marines who could have carried out this type of operation, or they could have outsourced the mission to local forces, possibly Houthis, said Hossein Aryan, a military analyst who served 18 years in the Iranian navy before and after the Islamic revolution.

“We used to practice it a lot, it’s general practice. You place a limpet mine and disable an enemy ship,” he said. “Iran has capable marines to do this. It could either send its own people or send some key people to help with locals to do that. It was a soft target.”

It is also possible that an unmanned boat of the sort Iran used in the 2015 military exercise may have been used in the attacks.

Iran is now passing on that naval expertise to allied military forces, officials and observers say.

DRONES
“Iran is exporting know-how for unmanned boats and drones,” said an official from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, who asked not be identified, noting that up to 50 members of Lebanon’s Iranian-trained Hezbollah guerrilla group and the Revolutionary Guards train and advise Houthi fighters.

Houthi forces are now able to launch drones from boats at sea, according to a Saudi security source.

Iran has denied playing any role in the conflict in Yemen.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the Gulf are not new: in the late 1980s the American and Iranian navies clashed after Iran was accused of mining shipping lanes.

Since that time, the Guards have attempted to send a message about their naval prowess by regularly carrying out operations and military drills in the Gulf. The Guards’ navy detained British military personnel in 2004 and 2007 as well as ten U.S. sailors in 2016. All were eventually released.

In recent years, the Guards have even taken on missions outside the Gulf. Special forces from the Guards’ navy carried out anti-piracy operations for nearly four months in the Gulf of Aden in 2012, their then commander told the Fars news agency.

Military forces trained or armed by the Guards have also shown their naval combat skills.

In the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, Hezbollah hit an Israeli warship with a missile, killing four Israeli sailors.

Houthi forces in Yemen carried out a series of attacks on Saudi oil tankers last year, leading to a temporary halt of the kingdom’s oil exports through the Bab al-Mandeb strait.
If the current tensions between Iran and the United States spill over into open conflict, all of the Islamic Republic’s allies, as well as its enemy Israel, are likely to be drawn into a regional war, Ibrahim Al-Amin, co-founder of the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper, wrote on Thursday.

He said Iran would receive support from forces in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

“So that nobody is in a state of confusion and so that nobody acts as if they didn’t know the nature of the confrontation, Hezbollah will be in the heart of this battle,” Al-Amin wrote.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva and Bozorgmehr Sharefedin in London; Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh, Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison in Baghdad, and Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Giles Elgood

 

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Yemeni forces recapture key southern city from Houthi rebels
Ali Mahmood
May 18, 2019

Qatabah in Dhalea province sits on two important routes running north

Yemeni pro-government forces have been fighting Hpouth rebels in Dhalea province since late march 2109. EPA
Yemeni pro-government forces have been fighting Hpouth rebels in Dhalea province since late march 2109. EPA

Yemeni forces drove Houthi rebels out of Qatabah in the southern province of Dhalea on Friday, retaking control the strategic city after more than two weeks.

The Southern Joint Forces, comprised of several pro-government military groups, killed more than 100 rebels in heavy clashes that lasted five hours, said a spokesman for the Security Belt force that played a major part in the battle.

“The Southern Joint Forces launched a wide-scale offensive on three fronts," Waheed Al Sufyani told The National. "The first was from Mureis area north-east of Qatabah, the second axis was from Hajer west of Qatabah, while the main attack was towards the city centre,"

The rebels had positioned dozens of snipers on rooftops in the city centre, which they have occupied for more than two weeks, he said.

“Our forces stormed the centre of Qatabah and clashed with the Houthi fighters, who suffered big losses. Over 100 of them were killed,” he said.

Col Ahmed Qaid, commander of the Security Belt forces in Dhalea, told The National that Friday's offensive was a well co-ordinated operation that achieved its goals of retaking Qatabah and key sites in Hajer.

“This crucial victory came as a result of setting up a joint operations room and a unified central command for all the Southern Forces which have been fighting in Mureis, Qatabah and Hajer, as well as the forces fighting on the Al Azarik front in western Dhalea,” Col Qaid said.

“The offensive went according to the plan we agreed upon with all the other divisions in the Southern Joint Forces. We were able to liberate Qatabah city completely and secure the supply route of Al Sheim highway which links Aden with Sanaa. Moreover, large parts of Hajer were cleared of Houthis, such as the villages of Gos Al Gammal, Al Abara and Habeel Al Souk."

Col Qaid said dozens of rebel fighters were captured, including high-ranking officers from Houthi elite forces and prominent tribal leaders from neighbouring Ibb province and from the northern province of Saada, a rebel stronghold. The remaining remaining rebel forces retreated towards the area of Al Fakher and the villages of Humar and Shakhab north of Qatabah.

Securing Qatabah and its outskirts is a crucial gain for the Southern Forces because the city straddles two main routes linking southern and northern Yemen. The first runs from the southern port city of Aden to Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, and the other extends from Aden into Ibb.

The Houthi rebels exploited a UN-brokered ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah to move three brigades from the western coast and attack Dhalea in late March. It was the first province to be liberated from the rebels soon after a full-scale civil war broke out in 2015.

 

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Army captures top wanted terrorist in Taiz
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19 May، 2019



National army on Saturday captured a globally and locally wanted terrorist militant in Taiz province.

A Special Unit of the army forces nabbed, during security operation, the most locally wanted terrorist so-called Bilal Al-Wafi nicknamed (Abu Al-Waleed), who is on the global terrorists List.

Al-Wafi was captured following days of monitoring and observation to his location at a village in Wahr Bilad Al-Wafi area, west of the city.

The terrorist was using women and children as hostages inside a home, but following hours-long siege, the army troops managed to control the situation and avoided civilians harm, before arresting him and defusing the bomb belt he intended to blow up.

The terrorist militant was immediately handed over to the concerned authorities in the province.

 

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Houthis Attract Recruits Through Sports, Ramadan Events
Sunday, 19 May, 2019



Sanaa- Asharq Al-Awsat

Houthi militias have intensified their campaigns among the Yemeni community at various levels, hoping to change its culture, impose their sectarian ideology, and attract more people to send them to fight.

In this context, the pro-Iranian militias have held various sports activities in Ramadan and organized events that take place every night after the iftar meal with the aim of serving their sectarian goals and attracting young people to recruit them later.

“The militias are holding events and activities to attract young and old people through meetings, tournaments, and sports leagues held in all neighborhoods and residential areas during Ramadan,” athletes and activists told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“There are various activities organized by the militias during the holy month of Ramadan, such as football, volleyball, chess, billiards, and snooker,” they said.

“The league and tournaments organized by the militias include different age groups, and most of the tournaments are held by clubs or sports bodies,” a source from Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He explained that the militias’ so-called supervisory offices or educational departments observe these games.

Abu Hamza al-Nahari, one of the parents in Hadda district, southwest Sanaa, pointed out that Houthis are naming Ramadan sports leagues after their followers who were killed.

“The group tries to establish specific names and terms in citizens minds, especially the youth,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that teams participating in some of these championships are called names such as resistance, steadfastness, challenge, stability, dignity, etc.

Ismail al-Rimi said most of the tournaments witnessed the participation of teams bearing the names of dead and Houthi leaders, some of whom were athletes but were killed during clashes.

According to former sports officials in Sanaa, the militias hold seminars and cultural lectures in most clubs, neighborhoods, and wedding halls in areas that fall under their control.

 

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Saudi shoots down two missiles fired by Houthis
Web Report/Saudi ArabiaMay 20, 2019

(KT file)

The missiles were targetting Taif heading towards Makkah and Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia's air defence forces shot down on Monday two ballistic missiles over Taif, one heading towards Makkah and the other over Jeddah, Saudi media reported.

The air defence was able to destroy the ballistic missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, Al Arabiya said.
The Saudi authorities are yet to issue a formal statement.

This isn't the first time Houthi militias have targeted Makkah -- the most recent attempted attack was in July 2017.
Many Muslims took to social media to express their anger with the trending hashtag #HouthisStrikeMecca.
#HouthisStrikeMecca
Iranian terrorist regime directing Houthi militias to attack Saudi Arabia to target our holy sites
The Iranian threat must be stopped in the region
Attacking Saudi Arabia means attacking one billion Muslims
Attacking our sacred sites means war in the region. pic.twitter.com/1DEoTh7fL5
- ??????? ?? ??????? (@m_saudi_2030) May 20, 2019
Muslims must move to protect the Kaaba and support their Saudi brethren against the Houthi group that fires rockets at Mecca!! #HouthisStrikeMecca #??????_??????_????_???????? pic.twitter.com/Vf3qTckQXh
- wadha (@wadhaa_b) May 20, 2019
"O my Lord ! make makkah safe and protect our holy mosque and keep it's peace and security ????

#HouthisStrikeMecca pic.twitter.com/ulV3zLQdGd
- ????? ???? (@ISky59) May 20, 2019

The Houthis first attempted to attack Makkah in October 2016, and a second time in July 2017, this was thier third unsuccessful attempt.
 

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World Food Programme considers ending aid to Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen after ‘interference’
Arab News
May 20, 2019
  • Negotiations with Houthi leaders to open up access to hungry people had not yet brought tangible results
  • "Humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked," WFP says
LONDON: The World Food Programme (WFP) is considering suspending aid delivery in the areas under the control of Yemen's Houthi group because of fighting, insecurity and interference it its work, the agency said on Monday.

"Humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked, and local authorities have interfered with food distribution," the WFP said in a statement. "This has to stop."

The highly unusual threat from the UN agency, which is feeding more than 10 million people across Yemen, reflected what it said were "obstacles that are being put in our way".

"We face daily challenges due to the unrelenting fighting and insecurity in Yemen. And yet, our greatest challenge does not come from the guns, that are yet to fall silent in this conflict - instead, it is the obstructive and uncooperative role of some of the Houthi leaders in areas under their control."

Negotiations with Houthi leaders to open up access to hungry people had not yet brought tangible results, WFP said, although some had made positive commitments.

"Unfortunately, they (Houthi leaders) are being let down by other Houthi leaders who have broken assurances they gave us on stopping food diversions and finally agreeing to a beneficiary identification and biometric registration exercise."

WFP's threat of a partial pullout comes after fighting around Hodeidah marred an apparent diplomatic breakthrough by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, who got the Iranian-aligned Houthis to agree a unilateral withdrawal of their forces from Hodeidah and two other ports earlier this month.

 

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