Houthis store ammunition in residential areas

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Houthi fighters chant slogans from the back of a vehicle during a January 3rd, 2017 gathering in Sanaa to mobilise fighters to battlefronts. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

By choosing to store weapons and ammunition in densely populated residential areas, the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) are putting civilian lives at risk, analysts following the conflict told Al-Mashareq.

According to local media, a weapons storage depot belonging to the Houthis exploded on December 15th in Sanaa's al-Jarraf distict, which is controlled by the militia. The cause of the explosion was not known.

Area residents said they fled their homes due to the intensity of the blast in a facility in al-Thawra public park, where the Houthis had concealed the weapons.

In November, a fire triggered a powerful explosion in the ammunition store of an arms trader in a district of Jawf province controlled by the Houthis, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more, local media reported.

The arms dealer and his family also were killed in the explosion in Barat al-Anan district, which reduced a number of houses to rubble and buried the occupants under the debris.

"The Houthis use gardens, mosques and schools to store weapons because they are non-suspect sites and under their control," writer Mounir Talal told Al-Mashareq. "The militias do not care about the safety of the people."

The Houthis also have been known to plant mines in mountain passes and along roads that are used by civilians, he said, putting noncombatants at risk.

The December 15th explosion in Sanaa forced "the displacement of residents from their homes in search of other places that they feel are safe for them and their children", he added.

'Not restrained by principles'

"The Houthis’ actions are not restrained by principles, values or military norms that protect the lives of civilians," political researcher Amin al-Azazi told Al-Mashareq.

"Iran supports the Houthis with various weapons and missiles, and therefore Iran bears part of the responsibility for the Houthis’ actions," he said.

"The Houthis behave like a militia even though they have taken control of the capital, a large part of the country and the state’s resources," political analyst Yassin al-Tamimi told Al-Mashareq.

They have sought to establish a restricted area in al-Jarraf, he said, and have been stockpiling arms in this district and others to fortify their grip on Sanaa.

The stockpiling of arms and ammunition in such areas shows the Houthis "do not care about the devastating consequences of the presence of weapons and ammunition in residential districts", he said.

These actions demonstrate that the militia's primary concern is to hold on to its weapons and enhance its combat and defensive capabilities to meet the challenges ahead, he said.

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