Houthis entice child soldiers with keys to ‘enter paradise’ when they die

A senior Houthi military official has admitted that they have inducted 18,000 child soldiers into their army since the beginning of the war in 2014. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019

Houthis entice child soldiers with keys to ‘enter paradise’ when they die

DUBAI: Houthi militants in Yemen would give child soldiers keys, telling them that it was for “entering paradise” when they died, UK tabloid the Mirror reported.

“They told us the key was for us to enter paradise if we were killed,” a child told government-backed soldiers, according to the British news site.

The Houthis, backed by Iran and led by Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, have long used children as soldiers in the now four-year long civil war. Al-Houthi was highlighted as a preacher of hate in Arab News’ special series targeting figures who incited hate and fear across all religions and nationalities.

In December 2018, a senior Houthi military official acknowledged to Associated Press that the militia had inducted 18,000 child soldiers into their army since the beginning of the war in 2014.

Children as young as 10 have been found fighting on the front lines of the conflict in Yemen. Those who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting, a former child soldier told the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations.

Samah Hadid, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said that Houthi forces were “taking children away from their parents and their homes, stripping them of their childhood to put them in the line of fire where they could die.”

Ahmed Jesar, one of the children who was kidnapped and taken at the mere age of 13, told the Mirror of his story.

“I was studying in school when the men arrived at the classroom,” he said adding that, “They told me to get up and took me away – I was very frightened. They gave me a gun and gave me a week’s training. But then we got caught up in a gunfight.”

“My friend, who was the same age as me, was killed. I saw his body on the ground. I was only 13. I should have been playing with my friends and learning at school, not watching people being killed. I was taken to hospital because I had been injured. I knew I had to get away and managed to escape when no one was looking,” he continued.

Another boy, 12-year-old Abdul Haziz, told the tabloid: “My uncle was forced to take me to join them. They gave me a gun. But then my uncle was killed in a missile attack. They took me aside and said, ‘You must get revenge for the death of your uncle’. They gave me the drug qat [a stimulant] and then another drug. I didn’t know what it was. I eventually managed to escape.”

According Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights, the Iran-backed Houthi militants have recruited more than 10,000 children between the years 2015 and 2018.

Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

Updated 22 May 2019

Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.