ADEN -- The Iran-backed Houthis are taking advantage of the truce in Yemen to step up their recruitment and mobilisation efforts, recently announcing the graduation of more than 5,000 fighters, officials and experts said.
According to Houthi-affiliated media outlets, 3,000 fighters who took part in a June 27 graduation ceremony in the group's central military region are preparing to join all active units in the region.
A further 2,500 fighters graduated from military training in a July 3 ceremony held in Sanaa administrative district by the Houthis' Support Brigade Command.
In Sanaa and Hajjah provinces, meanwhile, the Houthis have been conducting sporadic military parades over the past three months.
"The recruitment and graduation of new batches of the Houthi army are not new," Yemen's Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi told Al-Mashareq.
"The Houthis are taking advantage of the truce to mobilise, move their equipment around and direct their energies to war," he said.
Exploiting the truce
Although a humanitarian truce is still in effect in Yemen -- announced in early April and extended for a further two months in June -- the Houthis have stepped up the training and mobilisation of fighters, al-Majeedi said.
These are men and boys the group recruited via summer camps and various other courses, he said, taking advantage of the lull in fighting.
"Peace is not one of the Houthis' priorities, and this concept is not in its dictionaries, because the group operates based on the Iranian axiom that blood begets victory," al-Majeedi said.
"The Houthis do not care about the suffering caused by the war, which left the majority of the population living in tragedies and humanitarian catastrophe," he said.
The truce provided the Houthis with "an opportunity to reposition, assemble and mobilise all who can be mobilised, including children", Deputy Minister of Legal Affairs and Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez said.
Children have been "the main fuel for the Houthis during the past periods", he said.
According to Abdul Hafeez, Houthi leaders have said they "do not consider those over the age of 10 to be children but rather men capable of carrying weapons and be sent to the fronts".
This attitude has prevailed even though the Houthis signed a protocol with the United Nations to remove child soldiers from the camps and return them to their families, he said, noting that 4,000 children have been killed on the frontlines in the past two years.
Child recruitment continues
On July 1, the Houthis celebrated the completion of orientation of more than 80,000 children they had recruited to summer camps in Sanaa alone.
The Houthis also transferred about 300 children and youth from their summer camps in Amran province to the group's main stronghold in Saada to undergo a combat course, according to a July 1 report from the December 2 news agency.
The father of one of the children from Khamir district in Amran told the outlet he was surprised to see, on social media, a photo of his 14-year-old son receiving weapon training with youth and children in the Maran mountains of Saada.
He said he rushed to the summer camp, where he was informed that his son had been in Saada, in northwest Yemen, for five days.
One of the Houthi camp supervisors told him the "mujahideen" had been transferred there to undergo a combat course, he said, and that he could take his son back after the conclusion of the course, if his son agreed to that.
"Unfortunately, the Houthis' announcement of the recruitment of 3,000 new elements is a result of the summer camps, where preparation and brainwashing take place," said human rights activist Laila Khalil.
Khalil, who heads the Action Organisation for Human Rights and Refugees, told Al-Mashareq the Houthis have forced families to send their children to summer camps, where they are indoctrinated, trained and then pushed to the fronts.
Khalil said the Houthis and their backer, Iran, do not care about the wellbeing of children, "only about recruiting them -- and returning them to their families as corpses".
The Houthis' ongoing indoctrination and mobilisation of children are sabotaging "the present and the future", she said.