8 killed in Houthi attack on Yemen’s army chief

The assault took place after the expiry of a one-month cease-fire announced on April 24 by the Saudi-led coalition. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2020

8 killed in Houthi attack on Yemen’s army chief

  • Yemen has been divided between the Saudi-backed government in the south and the Houthi movement based in the north
  • The United Nations has been trying to hold virtual talks between the warring parties to forge a permanent cease-fire

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s political and military leaders vowed on Wednesday to defeat Iran-backed Houthi militias after a twin missile attack targeted the army’s chief of staff and killed eight soldiers, including his son.

Lt. Gen. Sagheer bin Aziz survived the attack overnight on Tuesday at a military headquarters in Marib province, northeast of the capital Sanaa. One of his sons and a nephew, both officers, were killed, along with six others.

After the attack, Gen. Bin Aziz issued a message of defiance, and said the missile strikes had made him all the more determined to press ahead with military operations until the Houthis were expelled. 

Offering his condolences, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said the “cowardly” Houthi attack would not stop Yemeni army troops from liberating the country from the militias. 

Yemen’s parliamentary speaker Sultan Al-Barakani said: “Our armed forces must respond to the criminals and punish them. The liberation battle will come. Losing a hero in the battle for dignity will boost our people’s determination to achieve victory.”

Houthis have escalated their missile and drone attacks on the province of Marib since early this year, apparently trying to push deeper into the city of Marib, which hosts thousands of government troops and Saudi-led coalition military forces.

In January, a Houthi missile and drone attack targeted a military training camp in Marib, killing more than 110 soldiers and triggering heavy clashes on the battlefields. The escalation has hampered UN efforts to broker a truce as the coronavirus spreads across the country.

The Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition have responded positively to the UN call for a humanitarian truce in Yemen and agreed to stop fighting if the Houthis adhered to it. 

Yemen experts believe the Houthis are claiming to be committed to peace while cranking up their military pressure on Marib because of its oil and gas facilities.

“The Houthis haven’t indicated that they want to de-escalate in the first place,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst and a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Arab News.

She said the Houthis were unlikely to seek peace while they remained militarily powerful. “We can’t have peace if the Houthis are not weakened militarily,” she said. “When the Houthis fail, they resort to using missile attacks and bombing residential neighborhoods. It has happened in Marib and Taiz repeatedly.”

Meanwhile Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen intercepted and shot down a Houthi drone on Wednesday launched at the Saudi border city of Najran. Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the Houthis continued to violate international humanitarian law by targeting civilians and residential areas.


Tensions continue to rise between US and Hezbollah

Updated 10 July 2020

Tensions continue to rise between US and Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party was in talks with Iran about buying oil with Lebanese pounds
  • Pompeo said on Wednesday: “Washington will not allow this. This will not be acceptable”

BEIRUT: The fallout from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning that Washington will do all it can to prevent Iran selling oil to Hezbollah in Lebanon continued on Thursday.
After Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party was in talks with Iran about buying oil with Lebanese pounds, to ease pressure on the plummeting currency, Pompeo said on Wednesday: “Washington will not allow this. This will not be acceptable. This is a product subject to sanctions. We will do everything in our power to ensure that Iran cannot continue to sell crude oil anywhere, including to Hezbollah.”
A Hezbollah source described the comments as “blatant, rude and unacceptable interference in Lebanese economic options.”
Another Hezbollah source said on Thursday: “Lebanon will not remain a hostage to American practices. It has to make up its mind about the choices that provide for the needs of its people.”
However, Minister of Energy Raymond GHajjar said ahead of a cabinet session on Thursday that the Lebanese government “is not considering importing oil from Iran, is not negotiating with it on this issue, and negotiations are still ongoing with Iraq.”
Lebanon is facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has caused its currency to lose 80 percent of its value, resulting in soaring inflation and plunging many people into poverty.
Nasrallah on Thursday renewed his call for the Lebanese government to purchase oil from Iran, adding that Tehran “is ready to accept payment in Lebanese pounds instead of the dollar.” He also accused the US of “imposing an economic, financial and monetary blockade on Lebanon and its people.”
Pompeo said that “the US will continue to treat Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” while pledging his country’s support for Lebanon and its assistance to help the Lebanese people get through the crisis. He added that Washington will not accept Lebanon becoming a state affiliated with Iran, and will continue to put pressure on Hezbollah and support the efforts of the Lebanese people to ensure they are represented by an honest government.
Meanwhile Sheikh Nazir Jishi, a cleric who leads a group called Righteous People, has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office accusing US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea based on evidence allegedly “related to establishing espionage networks that work for the benefit of the Israeli enemy on Lebanese lands, incitement, inciting sectarian strife, threatening civil peace and insulting the Lebanese people.”
Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said that the events of recent days show that Washington is continuing to put pressure on Hezbollah, without allowing relations to completely break down.
He highlighted a number of recent developments, including: Nasrallah’s comments that his party wants Lebanon to have good relations with all countries, including the US; the legal action taken against Ambassador Shea; the early release of Lebanese businessman Kassim Tajideen from an American prison where he was serving a five-year sentence for providing millions of dollars in funding for Hezbollah; and an official visit to Lebanon by Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, during which he met President Michel Aoun and the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“All of these situations indicate that some kind of an agreement is being woven between the two sides, beneath all the confrontations,” said Hage Ali.
“The Americans care about supporting Lebanese institutions, especially the army. There is talk of limited Arab aid to Lebanon with American approval but what does this mean? Is it like life support so that the country continues to survive within minimum limits until the next US presidential election, pending a new approach to the Iranian threat … if the Democrats win?”