AL-MUKALLA: Arab coalition warplanes killed two Hezbollah military experts in Yemen during airstrikes on a training camp outside Houthi-held Sanaa last week, Yemen’s defense ministry said.
Along with the two Lebanese experts, at least a dozen Houthi fighters who were undergoing military training in Sanaa’s Arhab district were killed in the same raid.
Yemeni military and political analysts, along with diplomats, say that the incident again lays bare Iran and its proxy Hezbollah’s continuing military interventions in the country.
Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has repeatedly accused the Iranian regime of deploying Iranian and Lebanese military officers in Yemen to support Houthi rebels who are coming under intense attacks from the Yemeni government forces backed by the Arab coalition.
Yemen military experts and officials believe that the influx of Hezbollah fighters began almost a decade ago and that the death of the latest two fighters is “the tip of the iceberg of the interventions.”
Military experts said that it shows Hezbollah is actively propping up the Houthis despite rebel denials.
“Since Arhab is not a battlefield, the incident shows that the two Hezbollah members were equipping the Houthis with military know-how, rather than taking part in the fighting,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesperson in the southern city of Taiz, told Arab News.
Hezbollah experts have helped boost Houthi military capacity with explosive devices, drones and missiles, he said.
Without military expertise from Iran and Hezbollah, Houthi weapons could not have hit Saudi and Yemeni cities and military sites during the war, Al-Baher said.
In January, a drone and a ballistic missile struck a military camp in Marib, killing more than 110 soldiers. Improved land mines disguised as rocks have also claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers and civilians.
Techniques for making land mines and directing missiles originated in Iran and was brought to Yemen by Hezbollah and Iran Revolutionary Guards military experts, Al-Baher said.
“Iran and its Revolutionary Guards are controlling the battles in Yemen. It controls the Yemenis and Lebanese,” he said.
In 2016, a video clip circulated on social media showing a Hezbollah military expert lecturing Houthi fighters. Based on intelligence information, Yemeni officers believe that up to 1,000 Hezbollah experts are stationed inside command rooms and military camps in Sanaa, Hodeidah and Saada, the rebels’ heartland.
At the same time, political analysts believe the Houthis are in desperate need of military and logistic support from Iran and Hezbollah amid an international arms embargo on Yemen.
“The Houthi group has been isolated by all countries,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s information ministry, told Arab News.
“Due to Yemen’s strategic location, Iran sees the Houthis as its most important camp in the region and the world. Iran and Hezbollah are using the Houthis as a tool to pressure Saudi Arabia and international marine traffic in the Red Sea,” Ghallab said.
Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, Yemen’s ambassador to the US and a former Yemeni president’s chief of staff, told Arab News that there is increasing evidence of Hezbollah military involvement in Yemen.
“Hezbollah is executing Iran’s agendas in the region. Hezbollah has always been the training, military, media and political incubator of the Houthis,” he said.