An Iran-backed Shiite rebel leader in Yemen vowed not to surrender Sunday despite ongoing Saudi-led airstrikes and a Yemeni commander bringing at least 15,000 troops to Saudi Arabia’s side.
The Yemeni commander of a vast district covering half of Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia pledged support Sunday to exiled and internationally recognized President Abed Rabboo Mansour Hadi, bringing at least 15,000 troops to the side of Saudi Arabia’s allies on the ground, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis, have been targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes since March 26. The Saudis support armed groups loyal to Hadi.
Most members of the Yemen military are loyal to ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces have aligned themselves with the Houthi rebels fighting armed groups loyal to Hadi across southern and eastern Yemen.
“The speech by rebel leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, his first since the Saudi campaign began, offered signs of cracks appearing in his alliance with Yemen’s one-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh,” reports AP. “However, his speech signaled no sign of his rebels backing down from their offensive after earlier seizing the capital, Sanaa, and forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.”
“The great Yemeni people will never surrender and never be subjugated,” reportedly said al-Houthi.
The Yemen commander who pledged support to President Hadi was identified as Brig. Gen. Abdul-Rahman al-Halily of the First Military District, unnamed officials told Reuters, Lebanon’s The Daily Star reports.
“The defection of the northeastern troops brings to about 10 the number of divisions that back Hadi,” adds the article. “It may point to an increasing sense in the military that momentum favors the president, who resides in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh.”
On Monday, other powerful tribes within Yemen’s First Military District followed suit, pledging loyalty to Hadi and the Saudi-led campaign.
The U.N. said that as of Tuesday, 364 civilians had been killed since the Saudi-led airstrikes started on March 26. Hundreds of fighters have also been killed in the conflict.
Houthi rebel leader al-Houthi vowed Sunday he would “never give in” to a Saudi-led air strikes on his Shiite militants, calling the raids “savage aggression.”
Al-Houthi also dismissed as “unfair” a U.N. Security Council resolution Tuesday that imposed an arms embargo on the Shiite rebels and demanded that the rebels give up territory they have seized.
Meanwhile, former president Saleh’s General People’s Congress said it was open to the U.N. resolution.
The Houthi leader pledged to put up tough resistance using “all means and options” available.
“Those who believe our people will give in because of their savage crimes are wrong,” he said, urging his followers to be patient.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of providing military aid to the Houthis, allegations that both Iran and the Houthis deny. Iran, however, does not deny being an ally of the Houthis.
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