Yemen army captures key military base from Houthis

The Houthi militia lost dozens of its fighters in the army operation. (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Yemen army captures key military base from Houthis

  • ‘Great victory’ in bid to drive militias out of Jouf province

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni troops and allied tribesmen have stormed and captured the strategic Al-Khanjer military base and surrounding areas in the northern province of Jouf.
The operation, supported by Saudi-led Arab coalition warplanes, is a heavy blow to Iran-backed Houthi militias and their control of much of northern Yemen, the army said.
The offensive followed several weeks of intensive fighting in the area. “This is a great victory. By seizing control of Al-Khanjer, the national army has secured a road between Marib and Joutema in Jouf,” said Rabia Al-Qurashi, the Yemeni army spokesman in the province.
Army commanders who led the operation said the coalition had carried out precise airstrikes that destroyed Houthi military positions and equipment, paving the way for government forces to storm the base and the other liberated areas in the province. Dozens of Houthis were killed or wounded in the fighting, they said.
Ssenior government officials called army commanders and tribal leaders on the ground in the province to congratulate them on the operation’s success. Vice

HIGHLIGHTS

• The offensive followed several weeks of intensive fighting in the area.

• The Houthi militia lost dozens of its fighters in the army operation.

President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer ordered troops to keep up fighting until they expel Houthis from all areas under their control in the province,
The acting commander of the 3rd Military Region, Maj. Gen. Nasser Al-Thaybani, said forces from the 3rd and 6th Military Regions were continuing military operations against the Houthis in Jouf, and that the Houthis had suffered heavy defeats and lost dozens of their fighters.
Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Yemen’s former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, said that the new military gains by government forces showed that they and their allied tribesmen had taken the initiative on the battlefield and switched from a defense stance to an offensive one.
“Marib’s resistance and the march in Jouf will determine the future of the fighting with the Houthis,” he said, predicting a “strategic shift” in the war.
In the western province of Hodeidah, fighting continued on Wednesday on the outskirts of Hodeidah city and two other districts. Artillery shells fired by the Houthis burned three stores attached to a dairy and food products factory in government-controlled areas of the city. “The fire is still ravaging the stores now,“ a local military officer told Arab News on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Houthi military commander Sheikh Addin Abu Al-Nour and five of his associates were killed in fighting with government forces in the northwest town of Hays.
 


Turkey confirms NATO fears over testing of Russian S-400 missile defense system

Updated 1 min 12 sec ago

Turkey confirms NATO fears over testing of Russian S-400 missile defense system

  • Trials of the $2.5 billion anti-aircraft weaponry bought last year from Moscow took place last week in the northern Turkish province of Sinop

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday officially confirmed the fears of its NATO allies that it had carried out testing of its controversial Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Trials of the $2.5 billion anti-aircraft weaponry bought last year from Moscow took place last week in the northern Turkish province of Sinop, just across the Black Sea from Russian territory.

In a Bloomberg interview, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO’s command-and-control infrastructure, but would instead be “used as a standalone system similar to the use of Russian-made S-300 weapons that exist within NATO.”

With this comparison, Akar implicitly referred to Athens, currently the top challenger to Turkey, which possesses the Russian-produced missiles in its arsenal.

Experts believe that the official statement on Turkey’s testing of the Russian air defense system could stoke tensions between Ankara and Washington, which claims that the missiles pose a serious threat to alliance military equipment.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers met on Thursday to discuss issues affecting the alliance’s security.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of think tank The German Marshall Fund of the US, said Turkey’s argument that the S-400 would be a standalone system not connected to NATO’s radar network had been made several times but had failed to reassure the Americans.

The main concern of the NATO allies is that the S-400 could be used to gather sensitive intelligence via systems linked to the F-35 stealth fighter, the next-generation warplane of the alliance.

But Ankara has said that its acquisition of the Russian missiles was necessary to defend itself against current and emerging security threats in its region.

Turkey’s participation in the co-production of the F-35 system was suspended by Washington last year as punishment for buying the Russian military hardware. However, the US had held back from imposing sanctions while the missiles remained in crates, but harsh economic measures are expected to kick in once the missiles are activated.

US Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jim Risch said this week that further sanctions against Turkey, as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), for testing the S-400s still topped his agenda for initiation after the presidential election.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez also issued a statement last week in which he said: “Turkey must be sanctioned immediately.”

Unluhisarcikli told Arab News: “The S-400s being used as a standalone system is unlikely to prevent CAATSA sanctions being imposed on Turkey.”

Ankara has been delaying the activation of the system since April, the planned date for its operationalization. Last month, during a visit to Turkey, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg repeated that the S-400 system could not be integrated into the NATO air and missile defense system.

But Unluhisarcikli believes that the efficiency of the S-400 as a standalone system is highly dubious.

Joe Macaron, a Middle East foreign-policy analyst at the Arab Center, said the US did not trust Turkey to block any Russian attempt to infiltrate the F-35 system.

“The Turkish message about not integrating them into the NATO system is being met with suspicions because Turkey has been playing both the US and Russia for a while and benefiting from their bilateral tensions,” he said.

He felt that Turkey had a two-fold objective. “The first is linked to US domestic politics with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struggling to get his US counterpart Donald Trump’s attention in the middle of his campaign or he is using the election season to force new preconditions for a potential Joe Biden presidency.

“And second, Erdogan feels a shifting US policy toward Turkey and testing the Russia defense system is a signal that he wants to talk with Washington. Whether Trump or Biden wins, there is no easy recipe for US policy toward Turkey,” Macaron added.