AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A Yemeni army general who defected from the Houthis has vowed to keep fighting the Iran-backed militant group and push them from all Yemeni territories under their control, including the capital Sanaa.
Brig. Gen. Tareq Mohammed Saleh, a nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a military commander at the Joint Forces in Yemen’s Red Sea battlefield, said Saturday that his forces wanted to free people from repression and tyranny.
He said Yemeni forces had taken the offensive on the battlefield and managed to push back Houthi attacks with little help from the Saudi-led coalition.
“Our goal is one: Houthis. Our crystal clear goal is Sanaa, the capital of Yemen,” he said, addressing dozens of newly trained forces at a military base in Yemen’s Red Sea Mocha town.
#Yemeni General Tareq Mohammed Saleh, a nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has vowed to keep fighting the Iran-backed #Houthi militant group and retake #Yemen's capital Sanaahttps://t.co/KgRTvcquig pic.twitter.com/xMVeHbbVAd
— Arab News (@arabnews) December 29, 2019
Saleh added that Yemeni forces had gained the upper hand in the battlefield in the port city of Hodeidah and had pushed back attempts to make territorial gains there and in Taiz.
“They say Houthis would come back to Aden if the warplanes stopped. We have been fighting here for a year and a half with no air, artillery or reconnaissance support. We are fighting them face to face with guns,” he told them.
Saleh was, until late 2017, the commander of his uncle’s special guards. Ali Abdullah Saleh switched sides in Dec. 2017 and led a military uprising against the Houthis, backing the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen.
When the Houthis killed him a number of his military supporters, including his nephew, deserted Houthi-controlled areas and regrouped at a military base established with the help of the coalition.
Using his uncle’s decades-long tribal, military and social connections, Saleh convinced many figures to defect and join his military brigades.
The Arab coalition brought together three major military divisions on the Red Sea under joint military command.
Saleh said his forces had killed and injured as many as 700 Houthis, as rebels sought to break government forces’ defenses in Hodeidah.
“They have suffered heavy defeats,” he said, urging his soldiers and supporters to keep their morale high and get ready for major battles. “We renew our call to all Yemenis to come together. They are our enemy and the enemy of all Yemenis. They caused curses and wars.”
Anti-Houthi forces have made major breakthroughs in the war by pushing deeply into Houthi-controlled areas in Hodeidah and Taiz since Saleh’s defection and, in June 2018, reached the outskirts of Hodeidah that host the country’s biggest seaport.
The offensive pushed the Houthis into agreeing to withdraw from Hodeidah’s major seaports under a UN-brokered deal signed in Dec. 2018.
The Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in March 2015 tilted the balance of the war in favor of forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, enabling loyalists to seize control of 80 percent of Yemen.