Sat Apr 29, 2017 08:50AM
US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan
US Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan

A US Navy commander says the military power of the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen has increased and Houthi fighters are now in possession of weapons they did not have before Saudi Arabia started a war on their country.

The Houthis and their allies in the Yemeni army regularly fire long-range ballistic missile at positions inside Saudi Arabia in retaliation for Saudi military strikes on Yemen. The Houthis also aimed for US Navy warships in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen three times in October 2016.

An explosion is seen on a Saudi warship after an attack by Houthi fighters, off the western coast of Yemen, January 31, 2017. (Via Reuters)

In January, a Houthi-operated remote-controlled boat packed with explosives rammed into a Saudi frigate in waters near the port city of Hudaydah, killing two sailors and wounding three others.

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Referring to those capabilities, Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, a commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters earlier this week, “These weapons didn’t exist... before the war. There was no explosive boat that existed in the Yemeni inventory.”

He also said that the ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia had several times the range of missiles the Yemenis had before the Saudi war started.

A senior Emirati official echoed Donegan’s comments, saying, “We are seeing UAVs, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles, as well as land and sea mines.”

The powerful resistance put up by the Houthi fighters has bogged down a supposedly militarily-superior Saudi Arabia. Observers say Riyadh has not only failed to reach any of its goals from the war on Yemen, it has also been unable to pull out from the conflict in a face-saving manner.

After more than two years of constant military strikes from the air, sea, and land, and a total embargo on Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been unable to reinstall a former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi — who had been allied to Riyadh as president — or eliminate the Houthi movement. It has also faced mounting criticism over the civilian casualties in the conflict. The protracted Saudi war has already killed over 12,000 Yemenis, according to recent tallies; hundreds of Saudi troops have also reportedly been killed.

There has been talk of a “political” solution to the war in the more recent past. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose country has been assisting Saudi Arabia in the war on Yemen, called for such a solution on April 19.

“In Yemen, our goal is to push this conflict into UN-brokered negotiations to make sure it is ended as soon as possible,” Mattis said back then after meetings with Saudi officials in Riyadh.

More Saudi soldiers killed

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a Yemeni military source said Yemeni snipers had shot dead three Saudi soldiers in a military base in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Jizan region.

Two other Saudi soldiers and eight mercenaries lost their lives when their location was attacked by the Yemeni soldiers and allied popular forces in the Midi district of Yemen’s Hajjah Province.

A Yemeni Qaher-2 ballistic missile also hit a Saudi military base in Jizan and left unspecified casualties and material damage.