26 killed as Hadi forces push Houthis back

Yemeni pro-government forces patrol during clashes against Shiite rebels in Yemen's western Dhubab district, about 30 kms north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, in this January 11, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2017
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26 killed as Hadi forces push Houthis back

ADEN: At least 26 Yemeni fighters died in fresh clashes and an air strike as government forces advanced against Shiite Houthi rebels near a key shipping strait, medics and officials said Saturday.
A week-long assault by government forces and their allies aims to expel the Iran-backed Houthis from Dhubab region, close to the Bab Al-Mandab strait linking the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
Twelve bodies of Houthi insurgents were taken early Saturday to a hospital in rebel-held Hodeida, a medical official said, adding that the facility received 23 others wounded.
He said the casualties were from clashes on Friday night in Dhubab.
An overnight air strike by a pro-government Arab coalition on a rebel assembly in Zaydiya, in Hodeida province, left another nine Houthis dead, a security official said.
The Red Sea port city of Hodeida lies some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Dhubab.
A medical official at a hospital in the southern city of Aden said five pro-government fighters were killed in overnight clashes around Dhubab and 14 others wounded.
Forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and allied fighters from the Popular Resistance have entered the town of Dhubab and seized its local government headquarters.
Popular Resistance commander Abdelrahman Al-Muharami said the loyalists had also recaptured large parts of Al-Omeri military base in mountains overlooking the coast.
“There are still some rebel pockets” in the base, he said.
The government and its allies in the Saudi-led coalition recaptured Bab Al-Mandab strait in October 2015, pushing the rebels further north.
But the rebels still control nearly all of Yemen’s Red Sea coast to the north, posing what the coalition says is a threat to international shipping.
Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 7,400 people and wounded nearly 40,000 since it escalated with the coalition intervention in March 2015 after the Houthis seized large swathes of the country, according to the United Nations.
In another bid to reassert government authority, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher said Saturday that his administration will start transferring salaries to state employees in rebel-held areas.
Public sector employees in rebel-controlled areas have struggled since Hadi moved the central bank from Sanaa to the temporary capital of Aden in June, after accusing the insurgents of running down Yemen’s foreign reserves.
Dagher said government employees “across all provinces” will receive their salaries at post offices and exchange outlets, state news agency Saba reported.


Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

Updated 39 min 21 sec ago
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Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

  • Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Idlib region Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the Russia-backed regime bombardment of the battered enclave.
Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to AFP.
He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheikhun, rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas Al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defense Center in Idlib,” in a Twitter post.
An AFP journalist saw White Helmet members gather to bid farewell to their friend, whose body was laid on a thick red blanket.
The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.
Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.
But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.
Raed Al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria.”
“It’s a great loss,” he said.
Dyab, who was single, leaves behind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said.
The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-story building with two members of the Jaish Al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.
Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.
The Idlib region is supposed to be protected by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey, but a buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented.
The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.