MASAM project clears Houthi mines in Yemen

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

A member of the pro-government forces searches for land mines in Taez in southwestern Yemen on November 6th, 2019. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

A member of the pro-government forces searches for land mines in Taez in southwestern Yemen on November 6th, 2019. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

Yemeni government officials have hailed the success of Saudi efforts to clear mines laid by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), while calling on the UN to pressure the militia to stop laying mines and to support de-mining efforts.

Since it began work in July 2018, the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (MASAM) in Yemen has removed 10% of the mines laid by the Houthis.

By the end of January, the MASAM project, sponsored by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief), said it had cleared 127,483 mines from agricultural land and residential areas.

Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez called on the UN to pressure the Houthis to stop laying mines, which are internationally banned.

"The efforts made by the MASAM project have achieved good results, with the removal of more than 127,000 mines," he told Al-Mashareq.

"The project is continuing its efforts to spare civilians from harm caused by the explosion of mines laid by the Houthis, who have developed a variety of mines including some that look like natural objects," he added.

These weapons have been developed with Iranian support, he said.

"The Houthis have laid more than 1.2 million mines, and their removal requires support for the efforts made by the MASAM project and the national de-mining programmes," he added.

Deadly weapons, indiscriminate killing

Arab Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki on February 7th announced that three Egyptian fishermen had been killed and three others injured when their boat hit a naval mine in international waters in the Red Sea.

"The continued deployment and laying of naval mines by the Houthis poses a real threat to the flow of maritime navigation and international trade in the Bab al-Mandeb strait and the southern Red Sea," al-Maliki said.

The Arab coalition's efforts have reduced maritime threats and the danger posed by naval mines through the detection and destruction of 137 mines randomly laid by the Houthis in Bab al-Mandeb and the southern Red Sea, he said.

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq that mines pose a great danger to civilians, noting that "Houthi mines target humans, animals and anything else that lives".

"Not a day passes without us hearing news of a mine exploding in this area and killing children and women, and some killing livestock," Ahmed added.

Naval mines laid by the Houthis also pose a threat in regional and international waters, he said, noting that an Emirati and a US aid ship were hit in 2018.

He called on the UN to pressure the Houthis to hand over maps of the minefields and also to demand that no more mines be laid, noting that "laying mines will not bring them military victory".

Mines threaten the lives of Yemenis

"The number of Yemen's human mine victims exceed the number of victims of military battles on the fronts, which underscores the danger that mines pose to the lives of Yemenis," said economist Abdul Aziz Thabet.

Thabet said combatants on the battlefield know their lives are in danger, "while most victims of mines are innocent women and children who are hurt by mine explosions in 'safe' areas".

"The Houthis, with Iran-provided support and expertise, have become skilled in manufacturing landmines that blend with natural surroundings," he said.

"This is a war crime that has no statute of limitations, and the Houthis must bear the legal and criminal responsibility for these crimes and compensate the victims who are felled by mines on a daily basis," he added.

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