Southerners prepare for Houthi invasion

Published on 23 March 2015 in News
Khalid Al-Karimi (author)

Khalid Al-Karimi


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Resigned Defense Minister Al-Subaihi purportedly pictured in Karesh area, where southern popular committees are amassing in preparation for a potential assault by the Houthis. (Aden Al-Ghad)

Resigned Defense Minister Al-Subaihi purportedly pictured in Karesh area, where southern popular committees are amassing in preparation for a potential assault by the Houthis. (Aden Al-Ghad)

SANA’A, March 23—Armed forces loyal to Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi have been on high alert in Aden following the Houthis’ takeover of Taiz city on Sunday, taking up positions along the governorate’s borders in anticipation of an assault.

Popular committee members and military forces have been gathering in the Karesh area of Aden governorate, near the border with Lahj, according to popular committee member Mohammad Herbaj.

“Defending Aden and southern Yemen is not just the responsibility of popular committee members, it involves all southerners and everyone is getting prepared,” he said.

In a speech televised Sunday evening, Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi said his group’s decision to mobilize for war was “imperative” under current circumstances and that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and its affiliates—among whom he counts Hadi—are being targeted, as opposed to southern Yemen and its citizens.

Herbaj said southerners have nonetheless interpreted Al-Houthi’s speech as a declaration of war, and that they are ready to defend themselves by any means necessary. “If they don’t have weapons they will fight with stones, they will never give up,” he said.

Fighter jets were seen flying over the governorate on Saturday and Sunday, although no strikes were reported. Pilots working alongside the Houthis had bombed the Presidential Palace in Aden on Thursday night, with Hadi escaping unhurt from the attack.

In a speech televised Saturday by Aden Live TV, Hadi called the attack on his residence “crazy and irresponsible” and said he is not acting for the sake of power but to “maintain the unity, stability and security” of Yemen.

Speaking with the Yemen Times on Monday, Southern Movement leader Abdullah Naji compared Houthi aggression to the 1994 civil war. “Northern forces won the war in 1994 because they had supporters from the south, but now the situation is different. Southerners will not allow the Houthis to rule the south,” he said.

Khalid Al-Kathiri, head of the Information Committee of the Supreme Commission of Liberation and Independence, a body within the Southern Movement, issued a statement through local media calling on southerners to unite and for fighters to gather along the borders and repel what he described as “blood-thirsty occupiers.”

Hadi began a week-long recruitment drive on march 15 in an effort to raise 20,000 fighters, and ordered the return of any military personnel forced into retirement following the 1994 civil war.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday, in which Special Envoy Jamal Benomar warned Yemen is on a “rapid downward spiral” as the conflict acquires “worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions.”

The Security Council condemned “unilateral actions” taken by Houthis and reaffirmed its support for Hadi, who made a request Monday for military assistance from the Peninsula Shield Force, the military wing of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).