Yemen Army foils Houthi attempt to take over Taiz

The city of Taiz has seen the bloodiest battles between government forces and the militias since early 2015. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Yemen Army foils Houthi attempt to take over Taiz

  • Several Iranian-backed militants killed while trying to lay siege on city

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthi militants have been killed in Yemen’s southern city of Taiz as the Iran-backed militias push to break army’s lines of defenses and to reimpose their siege on the city, an army spokesperson told Arab News on Wednesday.

Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher said attacks on government forces on all fronts around the city had escalated in an attempt to make a major breakthrough.

“The national army has foiled all attempts to make gains,” Al-Baher said, adding that loyalist forces had also shelled a Houthi training camp in the west of the city.

The city of Taiz has seen the bloodiest battles between government forces and the militias since early 2015, when the rebels moved a large number of forces from Sanaa to bring the city under their control. 

Despite their numerical advantage, the Houthis failed to push into the city’s downtown area, limiting them to the outskirts where they imposed a siege that brought Taiz to the edge of starvation.

FASTFACT

Despite their numerical advantage, the Houthis failed to push into the city’s downtown area, limiting them to the outskirts where they imposed a siege that brought Taiz to the edge of starvation.

Government forces have managed to recapture the western edge of the city and reopened a strategic road that linked the city with the southern port of Aden, which enabled the government to funnel vital humanitarian and military supplies to the city’s inhabitants.

Al-Baher said the Houthis had launched simultaneous attacks on the edges of the city for the first time in months.

“Their recent attacks have focused on all fronts around the city,” he said, adding that at least 59 Houthis and nine loyalists were killed in the latest clashes. Al-Baher also said that if the Houthis successfully laid siege again, it would put the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk.

In the southern province of Abyan, a government soldier was killed and several others injured when missiles fired by militiamen exploded inside their military base in the district of Lawder on Tuesday, local media said.

Fighting was also reported in the northern province of Jawf, where government forces attacked Houthi positions under air cover from the Saudi-led coalition.

Hospitals attacked

Local health authorities in the province of Marib have said that three health facilities, out of the region’s 12, had been completely destroyed by Houthi shelling over the last five years.

The remaining nine facilities had all been damaged by fighting, and seven health workers had been killed in different districts in Marib, according to the provincial office of the Ministry of Health.

Houthi missile and mortar fire has killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers in Marib over the last several months.


‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

A mask-clad young Iraqi woman speaks to another during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, despite the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2020

‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

  • Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say

BAGHDAD: Seventeen years after US troops invaded their country and eight months since protests engulfed their cities, Iraqis are sending solidarity, warnings and advice to demonstrators across America.
Whether in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square or on Twitter, Iraqis are closely watching the unprecedented street protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck.
“I think what the Americans are doing is brave and they should be angry, but rioting is not the solution,” said Yassin Alaa, a scrawny 20-year-old camped out in Tahrir.
Only a few dozen Iraqis remain in tents in the capital’s main protest square, which just months ago saw security forces fire tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators, who shot back with rocks or occasionally Molotov cocktails.
Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say. Now, they want to share their lessons learned.
“Don’t set anything on fire. Stay away from that, because the police will treat you with force right from the beginning and might react unpredictably,” Alaa told AFP.
And most importantly, he insisted, stick together. “If blacks and whites were united and they threw racism away, the system can never stop them,” he said.
Across their country, Iraqis spotted parallels between the roots of America’s protests and their own society.
“In the US it’s a race war, while here it’s a war of politics and religion,” said Haider Kareem, 31, who protested often in Tahrir and whose family lives in the US.
“But the one thing we have in common is the injustice we both suffer from,” he told AFP.
Iraq has its own history of racism, particularly against a minority of Afro-Iraqis in the south who trace their roots back to East Africa.
In 2013, leading Afro-Iraqi figure Jalal Thiyab was gunned down in the oil-rich city of Basra — but discrimination against the community is otherwise mostly nonviolent.
“Our racism is different than America’s racism,” said Ali Essam, a 34-year-old Afro-Iraqi who directed a wildly popular play about Iraq’s protests last year.
“Here, we joke about dark skin but in America, being dark makes people think you’re a threat,” he told AFP.
Solidarity is spreading online, too, with Iraqis tweaking their own protest chants and slogans to fit the US.
In one video, an elderly Iraqi is seen reciting a “hosa” or rhythmic chant, used to rally people into the streets last year and now adapted to an American context.
“This is a vow, this a vow! Texas won’t be quiet now,” he bellowed, before advising Americans to keep their rallies independent of foreign interference — mimicking a US government warning to Iraqis last year. Others shared the hashtag “America Revolts.”
Another Arabic hashtag going viral in Iraq translates as “We want to breathe, too,” referring to Floyd’s last words.
Not all the comparisons have been uplifting, however.
The governor of Minnesota, the state in which Minneapolis is located, said the US street violence “was reminiscent of Mogadishu or Baghdad.”
And the troops briefly deployed by US President Donald Trump to quell unrest in Washington were from the 82nd Airborne — which had just returned from duty in Iraq.
“Trump is using the American army against the American people,” said Democrat presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
Iraqis have fought back online, tweeting “Stop associating Baghdad with turmoil,” in response to comparisons with their homeland.
Others have used biting sarcasm.
In response to videos of crowds breaking into shops across US cities, Iraqis have dug up an infamous quote by ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“Lawlessness and looting is a natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country,” he said in response to a journalist’s question on widespread looting and chaos in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion.