Houthi militias spread disinformation to induce media sympathy
By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden
The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) deliberately take control of key civilian infrastructure facilities in the port city of al-Hodeidah to induce the Arab coalition to strike them, analysts tell Al-Mashareq.
In early November, Houthi fighters took up positions inside the city's May 22 Hospital and on its roof, placing the entire facility at grave risk, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Amnesty International accused the Houthis on November 8th of "deliberate militarisation" of the facility after they forced staff out of the hospital and stationed snipers on its roof.
A day later, pro-government forces took over the hospital.
"The Houthis used the May 22 hospital as military barracks and its patients as human shields," said journalist Munir Talal, noting that the militia halted ambulance traffic from and to the hospital.
They also put the grain silos at the Red Sea Mills -- which contain enough grain to feed more than 3 million people for a month -- at risk, he said, by militarising them and using them as launchpads for their attacks.
The grain facility, located south of al-Hodeidah port, holds about 51,000 tonnes of wheat and is a critical facility for World Food Programme (WFP) operations.
The Houthis deliberately use these civilian facilities to induce coalition and government forces to target them, Talal said.
Their objective is to mislead the international community by spreading news that the Arab coalition fighting alongside Yemeni forces intends to harm civilians and civilian infrastructure facilities, he said.
Shells did indeed fall inside the grain compound before it was liberated by pro-coalition forces on November 10th, but the silos and the grains were not touched, said Ali Reza Qureshi, Yemen's WFP deputy director.
Instead, landmines were found inside a grain silo that are typically used by the Houthis, WFP executive director David Beasley said in televised remarks on November 19th.
"We had seven landmines inside our facility inside the grain bins that were placed there just in the past few days," he said, describing the situation as "deplorable".
"The Houthis have made a habit of using false propaganda based on disinformation," said Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights undersecretary Nabil Abdul-Hafeez.
"Their media policy is shaped by [Lebanon's] Hizbullah and Iran and relies on the manipulation of information in one way or another," he said.
The Houthis gained media experience in the southern suburb of Beirut through being embedded with Hizbullah’s media arms, he told Al-Mashareq.
Abdul-Hafeez noted the Houthis’ neglect of verifying and documenting the facts presented in their reports.
"They blame the abuses they commit against the population and public and private facilities on the legitimate government forces," he said, "which is part of their agenda and policy to mislead the international community, as was the case with the grain silos."
The Houthis are acting "like a criminal gang", Abdul-Hafeez said, as illustrated by media reports quoting the Houthi Minister of Youth Hassan Zayd instructing the militia’s elements to blow up the port of al-Hodeidah and use a "scorched earth policy", if they are on the verge of defeat.
Iran shares the blame
The Iranian regime shares the blame for all the destruction and Houthi attacks targeting infrastructure facilities, Talal said.
The Iranian regime aims by supporting its proxies in the region to ensure that they become strong enough to help ease the international pressures on Iran, Abdul-Hafeez said.
"Iran’s arms in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, enable it to direct the conflicts with other countries in the region, but not on Iranian territory," he added.
Al-Hodeidah media professional Wadih Atta told Al-Mashareq Iran has a role in all the activities carried out by the Houthis.
Iranian experts "supervise and direct" the Houthis' "brutal acts", he said, including their use of bombs camouflaged as rocks, which have been linked to Iran.
A March report by Conflict Armament Research said these devices, which have been recovered in various locations in Yemen, closely resemble bombs recovered in Iraq and Lebanon.
The devices recovered in Iraq and Lebanon have been previously linked, forensically, to Iran, the report said, noting that those recovered in Yemen are of similar design and construction.