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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

Yemen army shoots down Iran-made drone in Hodeidah

This is the third time this week Yemeni forces shoot down an aircraft over Hodeidah

A picture of an Iranian Qasef drone captured on the battlefield in Yemen, displayed during a news conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on June 19, 2018. Jon Gambrell / AP
A picture of an Iranian Qasef drone captured on the battlefield in Yemen, displayed during a news conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on June 19, 2018. Jon Gambrell / AP

Yemeni government forces shot down a drone belonging to the Houthi rebels over the Al Duraihimi area in the Hodeidah province.

“The drone was made in Iran and was being used to spy on the forces,” a source told the military-run 26 September news site on Saturday.

This marks the second time the army had shot down a drone this week. On Thursday, an aircraft was intercepted near the Hodeidah airport, and another one was shot down on Friday over the Al Hays area.

Yemen government forces – backed by an Arab coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE – launched an offensive on Hodeidah on June 13 to box the rebels into Sanaa, cutting off their supply lines and forcing them to work on a political process. The coalition intervened in the war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

The Hadi government said on Saturday that the Houthi rebels must withdraw from Hodeidah unconditionally to make way for any political solution.

“The Yemeni forces are advancing to liberate Hodeidah and to spare the city and its habitants from anything unwanted and to maintain the basic infrastructure of the city and its port,” the government said in a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency.

It also reiterated its support for UN envoy Martin Griffiths’s efforts to convince the Houthis to withdraw from the area.

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Meanwhile, on Saturday, forces loyal to the president liberated the first villages of the directorate of Al Sawadiya, north of the central province of Al Bayda.

“The army liberated Al Jeidna village after fierce clashes with the Houthi rebels,” a source told the 26 September news site.

“They also managed on Sunday morning to seize back the left part of a strategic mountain, where a communications tower is located. Fighting is ongoing.”

The source said that a number of Houthi rebels were killed in the fighting, adding that two have been detained.

Mr Griffiths said on Thursday after talks with Mr Hadi in the de facto capital of Aden that both the rebels and the government have confirmed their willingness to talk.

The Yemeni government and the coalition said that the Houthis must completely withdraw from the city and hand over control to the UN. However, the rebels – who have been using Hodeidah to smuggle weapons provided by Iran – have so far only agreed to share control with the UN.

The port is also an entry point for aid deliveries and commercial goods, and the Yemeni government fears the rebels’ grip on the city will cut the only lifeline for millions facing starvation.