Rebel chief in Ye­men rules out sur­ren­der

The coali­tion had sent fighter jets and Apache at­tack he­li­copters to cover Ye­meni troops fight­ing rebels on the ground

Times of Oman - - OMAN/WORLD -

SANAA: Ye­men’s rebel chief vowed on Wed­nes­day he would never sur­ren­der to Saudi-backed pro-gov­ern­ment forces, as in­ter­na­tional aid groups ap­pealed for safe pas­sage for civil­ians caught in the flash­point port of Hodeida.

After six days of in­tense bat­tles, pro-gov­ern­ment forces on Wed­nes­day pressed even closer to the heart of Hodeida, the Red Sea city con­trolled by the Houthi rebels and un­der block­ade by Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies.

Plumes of smoke were seen bil­low­ing from the hori­zon on Tues­day as heav­ily armed pro-gov­ern­ment forces moved to­wards the port on foot and on the back of pickup trucks.

The coali­tion had sent fighter jets and Apache at­tack he­li­copters to cover Ye­meni troops fight­ing rebels on the ground, a pro­gov­ern­ment mil­i­tary source said.

In a lengthy tele­vised speech from an undis­closed lo­ca­tion, the coun­try’s rebel chief ap­peared to ad­mit the al­liance had made head­way into Hodeida.

In­ter­na­tional aid groups have ap­pealed to both the rebels and the al­liance to al­low civil­ians to es­cape the densely-pop­u­lated city of 600,000 peo­ple.

The In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross ap­pealed for the war­ring par­ties to “spare civil­ians and civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture” in­clud­ing am­bu­lances, hos­pi­tals, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter plants.

Mil­lions of peo­ple across Ye­men are de­pen­dent on hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to sur­vive a deadly tri­fecta of war, dis­ease and loom­ing mass star­va­tion -- and nearly 80 per cent of that aid comes through Hodeida. The Houthis seized large parts of Ye­men in a 2014 takeover, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Sanaa.

Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies joined the Ye­meni gov­ern­ment’s war against the Houthis the fol­low­ing year, driv­ing the rebels back but fail­ing to re­take Sanaa and Hodeida.

Rebel chief Ab­dul­ma­lik Al Houthi on Wed­nes­day ac­knowl­edged he was out­num­bered, but ap­peared un­daunted even while ap­pear­ing to ad­mit to in­cur­sions by the Saudi-led coali­tion.

“The en­emy ben­e­fits from its num­bers, which it has in­creased even fur­ther to pres­sure the city of Hodeida,” Al Houthi said.

“Does the en­emy think that pen­e­trat­ing this or that area, or seiz­ing this or that area, means we will be con­vinced that we should sur­ren­der and hand over con­trol? “This is not hap­pen­ing and will not hap­pen ever.”

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