Arab coalition strikes at Houthis' drone capabilities
By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden
Arab coalition airstrikes targeting Sanaa facilities where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were stored have impaired the ability of the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) to use these weapons, Yemeni experts said.
The Arab coalition on January 31st announced it had conducted an operation that targeted a military site that housed UAVs, commonly known as drones.
"Coalition forces carried out a military operation to destroy a legitimate military target, namely a site east of [Sanaa] used by the Houthi militia to store UAVs," spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
The airstrikes are part of a two-week string of military operations that have sought to "destroy the Houthis' UAV supply in the aftermath of an attack on a Yemeni government military parade", he said.
Six soldiers were killed and at least 12 people were wounded in the January 10th drone attack on al-Anad air base in Lahj province, which was claimed by the Houthis, according to medics at the Ibn Khaldoun hospital.
Strikes destroy logistical facilities
Arab coalition airstrikes on January 19th destroyed an integrated UAV network and logistical facilities operated by the Houthis, al-Maliki said.
The strikes targeted Houthi UAV hangars and training facilities, he added, noting that the Arab coalition "will not allow the Houthi militias to possess qualitative capabilities that threaten regional security".
The Arab coalition's January airstrikes hit their targets in Sanaa with precision and without causing civilian casualties, Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Abdullah Majali told Al-Mashareq.
Ahead of the strikes, Sanaa residents were advised to exercise caution, he said.
The targeted sites included weapon and rocket depots and UAV storage facilities used by the Houthis, as well as the militia's training camps, he said.
"The coalition targeted al-Dulaimi base at Sanaa airport, the Air Force Command base and Air Defence College, all of which are sites used to store the Houthis' Iranian-made UAVs and rockets," Majali said.
Other targeted sites included camp al-Hafah and al-Suwad (also known as Camp 48), the presidential compound and al-Nahdain military base, he added.
All of the targeted sites were "used to store and reassemble these Iran-supplied weapons and train their elements", Majali said.
Iran supplies drones to Houthis
In a study published in January, "Suicide drones, the Houthis’ strategic weapon", the Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies revealed that Iran has been supplying UAVs to Yemen's Houthis.
The so-called "suicide drones" are programmed to detonate remotely or when they reach pre-programmed co-ordinates, the study said.
According to the study, the serial numbers of the Houthis’ Qasef-1 UAVs "indicate that they are merely another version of the Iranian Ababeel UAV".
Some of the UAVs are smuggled to the Houthis intact, the study said, pointing to the seizure of UAVs destined for the Houthis by security forces in Marib.
Others are reassembled in Yemen by experts trained in Iran and Lebanon.
Smuggling activity is carried out by Units 400 and 190 of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF), according to the study.
The Arab coalition announced on January 20th that Iran had supplied the Houthis with the HESA Shahed 129, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
The combined surveillance and attack drone has a range of 2,000 kilometres and the ability to stay airborne for 30 hours.
Stamping out drone production
It is relatively cheap and easy to acquire UAVs (prices range between $1,000 and $2,000) and related equipment online, said Abaad Centre for Strategic Studies head Abdul Salam Mohammed.
It is also relatively easy to manufacture parts, which has led to the opening of factories in Yemen where drones are manufactured and assembled, he told Al-Mashareq.
The Houthis seek to "establish these plants and workshops inside cities to protect them from being targeted", he said.
Further, he cautioned, targeting these factories with airstrikes "does not end the problem, and may only hinder their heavy production to some degree".