Reports of more than 200 children killed in battle, says Arab coalition spokesman
Houthis using children as human shields in Yemen's Hodeidah, Arab coalition says
The Arab coalition fighting in Yemen on behalf of the internationally-recognised government said that the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah has not yet been liberated because the Houthi militia there was using civilians as human shields.
“There are reports that 200 children were killed in the battlefield because of the Houthis’ recruitment of these orphans, who they use as shields,” said Col Turki Al Maliki, the coalition's spokesman.
He said the alliance – which includes the UAE – is not slowing down its offensive on the western battle front, where, he added, the Yemeni forces are nine kilometres from Hodeidah city.
“The Yemeni army is advancing in the Saada in the north and Al Hodeidah in the south,” said Col Al Maliki on Monday night. “The pro-government forces are close to wrapping up the last preparations to liberate Al Hodeidah that includes a port, through which most humanitarian aid comes.
“There are reinforcements and the sweeping of landmines from liberated areas in preparation for future operations. Once all the requirements are met, the Yemeni forces will advance to recapture Al Hodeidah.”
Col Al Maliki also said that the Saada province remains "the scene from which to launch ballistic missiles" that have targeted populated areas of Saudi Arabia. Air defence systems have intercepted most of them.
"The Yemeni forces have seized ballistic missiles from the Houthis in Al Hodeidah," he said. "The Arab coalition is working to stop the smuggling of Iranian weapons to the Houthis via the Al Hodeidah port.
"Not a single rocket was launched this week towards Saudi Arabia … as intensified military efforts have been successful in neutralising the capabilities of the Houthis."
Col Al Maliki reiterated that the best solution to the Yemen crisis would be a political one, saying that "all options are possible, and the military option continues to meet its goals".
According to Yemeni political sources, United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is in talks with the Houthis rebels to hand over control of the Al Hodeidah port to the UN. He arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Saturday.
Yemen's Prime Minister, Ahmed Obeid bin Dagher, said on Monday night that the government welcomed Mr Griffiths's efforts to find a political solution.
"The government was, and still is, welcoming of the efforts being made to consolidate the pillars of a comprehensive and fair peace in Yemen," he tweeted.
In a letter to the Washington Post on Tuesday, the UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, and the UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, wrote that "a political resolution must be reached" in Yemen.
"The Houthis are the main obstacle to achieving peace under a legitimate government in Yemen," they wrote, adding that before Mr Griffith's visit, the Iran-backed rebels "had refused any substantive engagement with the UN-led negotiations".
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war in Yemen in March 2015 to fight the Iran-backed rebels at the request of the legitimate government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.