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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Yemeni army advances against Houthi militia in south Yemen

But the humanitarian crisi is a "catastrophe" with cholera cases likely to reach 1 million by the end of the year

Pro-government troops parade to mark the 55th anniversary of the September 1962 revolution in the war-torn southwestern city of Taiz, Anees Mahyoub / Reuters
Pro-government troops parade to mark the 55th anniversary of the September 1962 revolution in the war-torn southwestern city of Taiz, Anees Mahyoub / Reuters

The Yemeni army backed by the Saudi-led coalition have dealt a strong blow to Houthi militias and pro-Saleh troops stationed in the southern parts of the country in skirmishes over the weekend.

A Yemeni military source said the Saudi-supported Yemeni army’s advance set back the rebels and sent the remaining militias fleeing from the battlefield.

The source told Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the Yemeni army also foiled a surprise attack launched by Houthi militias in Al Joaf province in an attempt to weaken the grip of the army in Khabb and Shaaf directorate in the northern parts of the province.

SPA quoted a military source saying the militias were forced to retreat.

However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the humanitarian situation in Yemen is a "catastrophe" and cholera cases there could reach a million by the end of the year.

Alexandre Faith, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, said the warring sides were using disproportionate force, causing "very excessive" civilian casualties. He called on them to allow Sanaa airport to open to commercial flights for aid supplies.

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Speaking in Geneva, Mr Faite said there had been 750,000 suspected cases of cholera to date, with 2,119 deaths. "We could be to one million (cases) by the end of the year," he added.

In his speech before the Human Rights Council, Fahd bin Obaidullah Al Mutairi, Head of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Department at the Saudi delegation to the United Nations, expressed his deep regret over the suffering and loss of innocent lives suffered by the Yemeni people.

He said the coalition was taking important steps to protect civilians during its military operations, whose purpose was to end suffering, minimise humanitarian damage and speed up relief efforts.

He said Saudi Arabia welcomed the role played by the Yemeni National Committee for the Investigation of Human Rights Violations, and urged the Joint Incidents Assessment Team to investigate all incidents that allegedly cause damage to civilian structures so that such errors can be avoided in future.

Mr Al Mutairi said the aim of the coalition's operations is to restore the legitimate, internationally-recognised government in Yemen. According to SPA, he confirmed that the Houthi militias and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh had violated international humanitarian law with impunity by firing ballistic rockets at Saudi Arabia and endangering international shipping routes.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 at the request of its legitimate government when armed rebels seized state institutions.