Yemen’s rebels claim carrying out attack in Saudi region of Najran, but there is no immediate confirmation from Riyadh.
The foreign minister of war-ravaged Yemen has used his address before the United Nations General Assembly to blame Iran for the years-long conflict in his country, as well as to take aim at the United Arab Emirates for supporting southern separatists.
In his speech on Saturday, Muhammad Al-Hadhrami thanked Saudi Arabia for helping Yemen’s internationally recognised government in its fight against the Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, and many of the country’s urban centres.
A Saudi-UAE-led military coalition intervened in Yemen’s conflict in 2015 in support of forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven to the brink of famine in a war the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Riyadh and Yemen’s internationally recognised government have long accused Iran of backing the Houthis and supplying them with weapons. Tehran says it supports the rebels diplomatically and politically but denies providing them with any military aid.
Urging an end to “this Iranian-Houthi coup d’etat in Yemen”, Al-Hadhrami on Saturday said Tehran “has wrought havoc in the Arabian Peninsula”.
“It has created, trained, armed and financed Houthi militias, who brandish the slogan of the Iranian revolution,” he said, accusing Tehran of trying to spread the war outside of his country’s borders.
“The Houthis have transformed the region into a stronghold to launch rockets, in order to threaten the security of neighbouring states and navigation in the Red Sea.”
On September 14, an attack on two major Saudi oil facilities wrought massive disruption on the kingdom’s oil industry and risked plunging the region into a broader conflict. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the assault, which knocked out 5 percent of the world’s crude supply, but Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States dismissed their claim and blamed Iran. Tehran denied the allegation.
Al-Hadhrami’s speech came as the Houthis said on Saturday they had captured “thousands” of enemy troops, including many officers and soldiers of the Saudi army, as well as hundreds of armoured vehicles in an operation near the border with the southern Saudi region of Najran.
Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the Houthis’ statement.
In his address, Al-Hadhrami also accused the UAE of backing separatist fighters in and around the southern port city of Aden, where deadly clashes erupted last month between the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government troops.
Amid the fighting, the UAE in late August launched air raids on government forces in support of the separatists, killing dozens of people.
“Our army has, unfortunately, had to face myriad direct military attacks in violation of international law,” Al-Hadhrami said.
“These attacks were mounted by Emirati air assets. These attacks have undermined the stability of our homeland, and in this way, the Emirati aggression has undermined the noble goals of the coalition.”
The fighting in Aden highlighted a rift within the military coalition, threatening to open a new front in Yemen’s multilayered conflict.