Saudi Arabia orders transfer of Dh7.3bn to Yemen after PM warns currency could collapse
The Yemeni rial, trading at 500 to the dollar, has lost half its value in the past three years amid a brutal war that has killed 10,000 civilians, displaced around 2 million people and pushed millions to the brink of famine
Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday ordered the transfer of US$2 billion (Dh7.3bn) to Yemen after the Yemeni prime minister urged the kingdom and its allies to act "now, not tomorrow" to save the local currency from collapse.
Riyadh, which is leading a military coalition fighting in Yemen, said the funds would be deposited in Yemen's Central Bank to to help address the "deteriorating economic situation faced by the Yemeni people", Associated Press reported.
The Yemeni rial, trading at 500 to the dollar, has lost half its value in the past three years amid a brutal war that has killed 10,000 civilians, displaced around 2 million people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
On Tuesday, Yemeni prime minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghir said saving the Yemeni rial means "saving Yemenis from inevitable famine", urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to deliver a bailout.
The Saudi-led coalition is backing Mr Bin Daghir's internationally recognised government in its efforts to recapture large areas of the country — including the capital, Sanaa — from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Also on Tuesday, a group of 40 Houthis — including two tribal leaders — defected from the rebel movement to join forces with fighters loyal to the internationally recognised government.
The defections took place on the Barat Al Enan front in Yemen's northern Al Jouf province, where the Iran-backed rebels are locked in fierce fighting with pro-government forces, Ramzi Mokhtar, a journalist on the ground told The National.
The army's Major General Mansour Thwabah said the defectors had decided to switch sides "because they felt guilty fighting with a rebellious group and they [wanted] a chance to atone for their mistakes", according to the armed forces media centre.
The defections on Tuesday came as government troops, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, continued their advance in the northern province of Saada, the Houthis' main stronghold.
Mokhtar said they were close to recapturing the districts of Al Buka and Kitaf, both located in eastern Saada. The majority of the population in these areas comes from the same tribe as the founder of the Houthi movement, Hussein Badreddin Al Houthi.
Tens of Houthis had been killed and many more injured in the recent fighting, he said.
Further south, pro-government forces were also making rapid advances in Hodeidah province, getting closer to the provincial capital after capturing the districts of Al Koukhah and Haiys, said army spokesman Major General Abdo Megal.
"The Houthis are experiencing a very critical time on the western coast battlefront. Over the past three days, hundreds of them [have defected] to the Yemeni army, tens have been killed and hundreds arrested," he added.
He said the Houthis were resorting to targeting pro-government forces with mortars from a distance, rather than engaging in close combat. Two children were killed by Houthi shelling on Tuesday, he said.
Also on Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition — of which the UAE is a leading member — destroyed a platform on the Yemeni-Saudi border that was used by the Houthis to fire missiles at the kingdom.
Updated: January 18, 2018 06:24 AM