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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Yemen war: Senior Houthi and his fighters surrender to army in Hodeidah

The Yemeni army has been making rapid advances in the port city, hoping to cut off the last main route used by the rebels to smuggle in weapons from Iran

Yemeni soldiers on manoeuvres supported by the Saudi-led military coalition in the eastern province of Marib, Yemen, 04 January 2018. Soliman Alnowab / EPA
Yemeni soldiers on manoeuvres supported by the Saudi-led military coalition in the eastern province of Marib, Yemen, 04 January 2018. Soliman Alnowab / EPA

A senior Houthi fighter and 50 of his men surrendered to the Yemeni army in the port city of Hodeidah on Saturday.

The surrender came after Ebrahim Adabu and his fighters were besieged by army troops in Hyais district, Aseel Al Sakladi, a journalist on the ground there, told The National.

The army has been making rapid advances in Hodeidah, hoping to cut off the last main route used by the rebels to smuggle in weapons from Iran.

Some of the Houthis who surrendered were children, Al Sakladi said, adding that they had been taken to the government-held city of Aden for psychological assessments.

"The rebels are [breathing] their last breath" in Hodeidah, said Al Sakladi. "They are suffering huge cracks because they lost [control of the] main roads used to get fuel and food supplies from Ibb and Taez provinces."

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Earlier in the day, tens of Houthis were killed by army shelling in Taez province's Al Salw district, said Tariq Al Mulaiki, a journalist working for the military-run 26 September news site. He added that government troops had encircled military sites controlled by Houthis in the district.

Elsewhere, the Yemeni army scored a new gain in the northern province of Al Jouf on Sunday.

"Troops advanced to liberate Al Kuaitah mountain — part of the Ham mountain chain — in Al Mutoon district," said Tariq Razaz, a journalist covering the ongoing heavy fighting in Al Jouf between the Houthis and pro-government forces.

It came a day after the Yemeni army's chief of staff was injured by a landmine explosion in Al Jouf.

A senior government official told Reuters that Brigadier General Taher Al Aqeeli suffered minor injuries in the explosion, which happened on Friday while he was inspecting government positions in Khub wa Al Sha'af, the largest district in Al Jouf.

Forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi captured most of the district in heavy fighting with the Houthis last month.

Razaz confirmed to The National on Saturday that Brig Gen Al Aqeeli had been injured in a mine explosion, saying that five other military commanders had also been injured, including the governor of Al Jouf province, Ameen Al Okaimi. None of the men were seriously injured, he said.

"The chief of staff (Brig Gen Al Aqeeli) was ferried to Saudi Arabia to be treated for his injuries, while his other comrades received necessary medical treatment in a local hospital in Marib province," said Razaz.

Pro-government forces have a strong presence in Marib province, which is located to the east of the capital.

Forces loyal to the government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have intensified an offensive against the Iran-backed Houthis since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed last month after switching sides in the war.

The Houthis killed Saleh, their former ally, after surrounding his compound in the capital, Sanaa. They accused the former president of trying to sow sedition in the country. In turn, Saleh's General People's Congress party accused the Houthis of trying to establish a monopoly in running the country.

The rebels control the capital as well as much of the north of the country.

The Houthis said Brig Gen Al Aqeeli and several of his aides were injured in Friday's blast, describing the general's injuries as serious.

President Hadi appointed Brig Gen Al Aqeeli in September last year, replacing Major General Mohammed Al Maqdeshi, who was appointed as a presidential adviser.

The UAE's state news agency, Wam, reported earlier this week that local Yemeni fighters in the south-west, backed by Emirati forces, had killed dozens of armed Houthi group members and cut one of their main supply routes to Taez, the country's third largest city.

As the Houthis lose ground elsewhere, they are trying to strengthen their presence in provinces close to the capital, Sanaa, such as Dhamar and Ammran, by recruiting public school students as fighters, a journalist based in Dhamar said on Saturday.

The Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014 and later advanced south, forcing Mr Hadi's government to flee to the second city of Aden and prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in the war the following March.

The conflict has displaced more than two million people, caused a cholera epidemic and pushed the country to the brink of famine. At least 10,000 people have been killed.

The deputy UN envoy to Yemen, Ma'aeen Al Shuriem, arrived in Sanaa on Saturday afternoon to resume peace negotiations. He is expected to meet with Houthi rebels and GPC leaders who did not flee the capital after Saleh's death to discuss paving the way for a new round of negotiations with the government. He is due to give a statement to the press on Monday.

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