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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Yemen: Tihama Resistance ready to lead 'Intifada' in Hodeidah

The group has asked the Arab Coalition to set up a joint operations room ahead of a possible offensive

A member of the Yemeni government forces takes position on the outskirts of Hodeidah during an attack on the port city, on June 27, 2018. Najeeb Al Mahboobi / EPA
A member of the Yemeni government forces takes position on the outskirts of Hodeidah during an attack on the port city, on June 27, 2018. Najeeb Al Mahboobi / EPA

The pro-government Tihama Resistance has sleeper cells in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah ready and willing to lead the "Intifada" against the Houthi rebels, said the group's secretary general.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Mohammed Omar Moamen, said his forces – named for the Red Sea coastal region – are willing to fight to liberate the northern Yemeni provinces from the Iran-backed group.

Tihama Resistance is part of a collective of forces with the stated goal of taking Hodeidah. It is made up of locals loyal to Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, and fights alongside the Arab Coalition.

"Most of the young men in Hodeidah city are against the Houthis, and they are waiting for the moment to take up arms and lead the biggest Intifada in the northern provinces," said Mr Moamen.

"Most members of the Tihama Resistance were unarmed peaceful civilians, but if we can equip them with more weapons, I can assure you that our young men in the city of Hodeidah are ready to inflict a fatal blow to the Houthis."

The coalition – which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE – paused its offensive on Hodeidah last month to aid peace talks spearheaded by UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. It intervened in the war in March 2015 at the request of Mr Hadi's government.

Government forces and the alliance say the Houthis must fully and unconditionally withdraw from the city and hand over control to the UN. The rebels have only so far agreed to joint control with the international organisation.

On Wednesday, Mr Griffiths said in a statement issued before his departure from Sanaa, which is held by the rebels, that the Houthis expressed a "strong desire for peace" and discussed "concrete ideas for achieving peace," without elaborating.

He said he may meet with President Hadi in Aden.

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However, Mr Moamen said that the Houthis are using the pause to mobilise and have no intention to resolve the future of Hodeidah through a political process.

"They've been preparing and digging trenches, because they know that they don't believe in negotiations or peace talks … this is their war because they are simply and Iranian proxy and nothing more than that," he said.

"They will not commit or agree to anything without Tehran’s consent."

The secretary general said that the Tihama Resistance has asked the coalition to set up a joint operations room to co-ordinate any possible upcoming offensive.

"The Tihama Resistance is also working with undercover agents in the Houthi militia present in Hodeidah, so we know the movements of the Houthis," he said.

When asked about those who do support the Houthis in Hodeidah, Mr Moamen said that there are two types of people that back the rebels.

“There are those who serve the Houthis in the city for their own personal interests, and then there are those who uneducated and poor and are forcefully recruited," he told The National.