Houthis lose fighters in frontlines with Yemen army

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

A Yemeni child carries a Kalashnikov rifle as he takes part in a gathering near the capital Sanaa to show support to the Houthis on February 21st, 2019. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A Yemeni child carries a Kalashnikov rifle as he takes part in a gathering near the capital Sanaa to show support to the Houthis on February 21st, 2019. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

In the past month, hundreds of fighters with the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) were killed as they battled Yemeni forces backed by Arab coalition aircraft on the al-Jawf, Sarwah and Nahm fronts.

In a March 8th statement, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani said more than 800 Houthis had been confirmed killed within a period of 25 days on the Nahm and al-Jawf fronts.

Many of the fighters were child recruits, he said, accusing the Houthis of kidnapping some of them and luring others to the battlefields.

"Many of the killed fighters were kidnapped by the group without the knowledge of their families," al-Eryani said, adding that in some cases the families only learned where their sons had been when they were brought home, dead.

Al-Eryani accused the Houthis of pushing Yemeni children onto the frontlines "without regard for their fate", and called on families in areas controlled by the militia to protect their sons and not allow them to be used as cannon fodder.

The Houthis on March 9th announced the death of a number of their military commanders, as fighting with Yemeni forces raged on al-Jawf front.

Yemeni forces announced they were mobilising to retake al-Jawf districts after the Houthis overran the city of al-Hazm in early March.

Houthi media outlets reported that funerals had been held for Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Salih Dabaan, Col. Hassan Ahmed Saleh al-Rousi, Lt. Hussein Ahmed Ali Sawmaa and Lt. Abdul Khaleq Hussain Qaid Sheikh.

Houthis declare a state of emergency

The Houthis declared a state of emergency in the areas under their control in order to mobilise fighters to make up for their losses on the battlefronts, particularly in al-Jawf, analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"A Houthi leader, Muhammad Ali al-Houthi, the group's second in command, met last week with the militia's commanders and tasked them with mobilising veteran soldiers using inducements and intimidation," he said.

The militia also tasked regional commanders with the mobilisation of fighters to make up for the shortfall in fighters amid the intensifying fighting in al-Jawf.

"Funerals are being held daily for Houthi fighters in Sanaa and other areas," Ahmed said, noting that "the Houthi militia does not announce the death of conscripts, only commanders".

The group's leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi has meanwhile issued directives to families to send their remaining sons to the fronts to shore up their ranks, Ahmed said.

Recruitment via mosques, media, schools

"The Houthis are using all means to mobilise fighters for the fronts with a general mobilisation conducted through mosques, the media and in schools," political analyst Khaled Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

Recruitment is both voluntary and forcible, he said, noting that some children have been taken to the battlefronts, where some are wounded and others "return to their families as corpses in boxes with unidentifiable features".

"The Houthis were forced to resort to conscription due to the human losses they suffered, including 100 recruits killed at a recruitment camp in Bakil al-Mir district," he said.

The Houthis claimed these fighters were killed in an Arab coalition airstrike on March 9th, Ahmed said.

Ahmed said the militia has recruited more than 30,000 child soldiers.

Sanaa resident Ali al-Jabboubi told Al-Mashareq his son Muhammad returned home after an entire year of absence.

"Muhammad returned home after he was wounded on al-Jawf front, where he was fighting with the Houthis," he said, adding that "his injury is what made it possible for him to return".

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