Terrorism

Houthis face largest wave of casualties since 2014

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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Houthi fighters stand guard in Sanaa on September 24th during a ceremony to collect cash, food and other donations for Houthi fighters. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Iran-backed Houthi militia (Ansarallah) has recently suffered its largest number of battlefield casualties against the Yemeni army since 2014, authorities say.

Fighting in the provinces of al-Jawf, Marib and al-Bayda has killed thousands of Houthis, including commanders trained by Lebanese militia Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani said on September 7th.

"The militia does not give any consideration to losses among its fighters, which have recently peaked, as it seeks to gain false victories and implement Iran's destructive agenda," he said.

The militias continue to take advantage of the most impoverished Yemenis in areas under their control by recruiting them by force, coercion and empty slogans in order to send them to the battlefronts, al-Eryani said.

He called on parents in Houthi-controlled areas to "stop [Houthi] efforts to send their sons to the battlefields".

The Armed Forces' Media Centre has documented the killing of 2,251 Houthi militia members, including field commanders, from June 1st to August 30th.

The deaths occurred on the al-Jawf and Marib frontlines, as well as battlefronts in Nehm district in Sanaa and Qaniya in northern al-Bayda province.

More than 5,000 militiamen were wounded during the same period, the media centre said.

During the first half of September, 382 Houthi fighters were killed, mostly in Arab coalition airstrikes, including 91 senior commanders, it reported.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni army and Popular Resistance Committees have liberated a number of areas in al-Jawf, Marib and al-Bayda provinces, army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Abdo Majali said in a September 5th statement.

They cut off supply lines and roads, killing and wounding dozens of militiamen and destroying combat and armoured vehicles in the process, he said.

Majali highlighted the support provided by the Arab coalition, which carried out airstrikes targeting Houthi sites and provided troop reinforcements and military equipment.

Yemeni army forces have made significant advances on the fronts of Najd al-Ataq in Nehm, Qaniya, Hailan, Serwah, al-Mukhdara and al-Dhale.

Disregard for dead fighters

"The Houthi militia could not care less about the number of [militiamen] killed and is willing to sacrifice Yemen's entire population for the sake of the Iranian project in the region," Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

The militia is exploiting its power over state institutions in areas under its control to recruit youth into its ranks, he said.

Yemeni youth are subjected to "ideological brainwashing at schools and summer camps" under Houthi control, he said, adding that sometimes neighbourhood leaders are "coerced into providing recruits".

"The Houthis are thrusting innocents to their deaths and putting them in the frontlines, while keeping their hardened ideological fighters in the back lines," he said.

The streets of Sanaa and other cities under the militia's control are "plastered with portraits of dead [fighters]", said Abdul Hafeez, as Houthi achievements are now limited to "opening new cemeteries".

"Hardly a day goes by in Sanaa without funeral processions held for Houthi conscripts and their commanders," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthis now suffer from a shortage of fighters and have resorted to recruiting fighters from impoverished families and immigrants from the Horn of Africa, he said.

They also force state employees and citizens to undergo "cultural" courses, which influence youth and fill them with zeal to the point where some ask to join the militia, Ahmed said.

There have been tragic stories of mothers who refused to have their sons take part in the fighting with the Houthis, only for their sons to disappear and after a while return home "either wounded, disabled or in coffins", he said.

Exploiting desperate families

Yemen faces record high rates of poverty and unemployment, compounded by six years of war and new challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Famine is again on the horizon. Conflict is again escalating. The economy is again in tatters. Humanitarian agencies are again nearly broke. And then the new problems -- COVID-19 is spreading out of control," UN relief chief Mark Lowcock said in late July.

He told the UN Security Council that the coronavirus crisis had slashed remittances, which has long been a lifeline for the country, by as much as 70%.

Citing a recent survey he said about half of Yemeni families have lost at least 50% of their income since April.

The Houthis "exploit poverty for recruitment, as families in despair allow their sons to join the militias to earn salaries amid the stoppage of payment of salaries and the economic crisis", economist Abdul Aziz Thabet told Al-Mashareq.

The militia controls massive financial resources in the areas under its control and allocates portions of them to pay the salaries of conscripts and cover all their needs on the battlefronts or military zones, he said, adding that "this has prompted many [families] to acquiesce to recruitment efforts".

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