Coalition airstrikes kill Hezbollah military experts in Yemen

Military experts said that it shows Hezbollah is actively propping up the Houthis despite rebel denials. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 November 2020

Coalition airstrikes kill Hezbollah military experts in Yemen

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.

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”