Coalition and Yemeni forces have made rapid gains in crucial Hodeidah province over the past week
Yemen rebels suffer 'major collapse' on west coast, coalition commander says
Yemen's Iran-backed rebels have suffered a major collapse on the country's west coast, a top commander in the Saudi-led coalition said.
"The Houthi militias have suffered a major collapse in their defences," said Brigadier General Abdul Salam Al Shehhi, commander of coalition forces in the area.
"Hundreds of their dead, injured and captured members have been treated according to international laws,” Brig Gen Al Shehhi said in comments reported by the UAE news agency, Wam, and released in a video.
Yemeni forces and the Saudi led coalition have made rapid advances in recent days in Hodeidah province, on Yemen's Red Sea coast, beginning with the capture of Al Khokha on Thursday and followed by two more districts on Saturday. A key objective in the province is the rebel-held port of Hodeidah further north, through which the Houthis are able to control the flow of humanitarian aid and smuggle in weapons.
"The UAE, Sudanese and Yemeni armed forces are conducting, with courage and determination, an epic battle to liberate Yemen from the control of the Iran-backed Houthi militias,” Brig Gen Al Shehhi said.
“The Yemeni citizens from liberated areas have welcomed the Arab coalition forces, reflecting their desire to liberate their country from the Iran-backed Houthi militia.”
He said humanitarian aid was being distributed in these areas, with relief convoys and thousands of food parcels sent to the city of Al Khokha and neighbouring villages.
A Yemeni army commander in Hodeidah, Abu Zara'a Al Muharramy, told The National that the rebel leaders had sent their elite Iran-trained units to the area after their fighters started to flee the battlefield. On Saturday, "they pushed in new troops of the Al Hussein commandos and Al Quds army", he said.
The commander said many of the fighters captured in combat were children. Those who were injured were sent for treatment to Lahj province, south of Hodeidah.
Meanwhile, an Iranian missile expert was killed in Saudi-led coalition air strike in Sanaa province on Sunday, according to a journalist with the military-run 26th September news website.
Coalition jets struck a vehicle carrying the expert and four Houthi rebels on mountain highway in the Nakeel Bin Gaylan area of Nehm district, killing all of them, said Ramzi Al Hakimi, a journalist with the website who is based in the area.
The highway connects Sanaa city, the rebel-held capital, with the northern provinces where the Houthis have their stronghold.
Al Hakimi, who is covering the battle between government forces and the rebels in Nehm, east of Sanaa, said the missile expert was believed to be travelling to a launch base when he was killed.
The rebels have fired dozens of missiles and rockets across the northern border into Saudi Arabia since the Yemen conflict began in 2015. Saudi Arabia and the United States say debris from missiles fired this year, including one intercepted near Riyadh in November, show they were supplied by Iran. A confidential UN report last month, seen by Reuters, found signs of Iranian design and manufacture in the remnants four ballistic missiles fired by the rebels.
The Houthis have suffered several setbacks this month after the collapse of their alliance with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who they killed on December 4.
Since then the rebels have killed at least 20 people linked to Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, and detained dozens across the country's north, the Yemen government's news agency reported on Monday.
The Houthis also blew up 20 houses in Hajjah and replaced the provincial governor, a former Saleh associate, Saba news agency said. Forty-nine people were arrested in Mahwet, another northern province.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Abdullah bin Zayed hosted a meeting of the Quartet Committee on Yemen in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to assess the situation in the country.
The meeting was attended by Saudi foreign minister Adel Al jubeir, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Timothy Linder King, US acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was also present.
The quartet commended the efforts by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN special envoy for Yemen, to find a political solution to the conflict and discussed Iran's support for the Houthis, which they said was prolonging the war and undermining political efforts.
The four countries agreed to meet again in the first quarter of 2018.