Houthis urged to de-escalate, accept Saudi initiative

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The Houthis’ escalating drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia and their military operations in Yemen threaten to ruin hopes to end war in Yemen, Yemeni government officials and analysts said.

Instead of positively engaging with peace efforts to end the war and de-escalate, the Iran-backed Houthis have stepped up the targeting of Saudi cities with explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles since March 23 when Saudi Arabia announced a proposal for ending the Yemeni war, they said.

The Saudi initiative suggested a nationwide truce, easing restrictions on fuel imports to Houthi-controlled areas and opening Sanaa airport ahead of peace talks between warring factions.

On Sunday, the Arab coalition announced the interception of two explosive-laden boats launched by the Houthis from Yemen’s western port city of Hodeidah.

The coalition also shot down three explosive-rigged drones launched toward southern Saudi cities.

In Yemen, Yemeni army troops and their allied tribesmen on Sunday foiled several Houthi attacks in Al-Kasara in Marib province, as the rebels pressed to make a major military breakthrough in their offensive on the city of Marib.

Residents said on Sunday that the Houthis fired Katyusha rockets and mortar shells at a camp for internally displaced people in Swaida area, west of Marib, forcing the displaced to flee to safer areas in Marib province.

Yemeni officials and experts said that the Saudi initiative responded to local and international calls for stopping the war and addressed the humanitarian crisis. It called on the Houthis to seize the opportunity for peace and stop fighting.

“There are great efforts to end the war and the humanitarian crisis,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News.

But convincing a militia supported by Iran, which is known for breaching agreements, to accept the Saudi initiative would not happen without joint military, economic and political efforts, Ghallab said.

“There is a problem with the structure of the Houthi group, which is built on creating wars to survive. There should be a simultaneous military, economic and political pressure on the Houthis,” Ghallab said.

Iran’s use of the rebels as a tool for settling scores with Saudi Arabia and achieving its expansionist ambitions also hindered efforts to end the war in Yemen, experts said. “The Houthi group is a tool for achieving Iran’s religious scheme,” Ghallab said.

Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghar, Yemen’s Shoura Council head, criticized the Houthis for their reluctance to accept the Saudi initiative and end the war in Yemen. Bin Daghar said that the Saudi initiative had exposed Houthi lies and showed them to be a stooge for the Iranian regime.

“The initiative revealed the reality of the Houthis; a bloody, racist, and stinking terrorist group, and exposed their lies. They appeared as advocates of war and agents serving an expansionist Iranian agenda in the region,” Bin Daghar said in a Twitter post. He added that there was growing support for the Saudi initiative that revived hopes for ending the war in Yemen and the suffering of the Yemenis.

In Riyadh, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said on Sunday that the Houthi military operations in the central province of Marib showed that the group were not serious about ending the war, stating that the Yemenis would challenge Iran’s projects in Yemen at any cost.

During a meeting with the UN Yemen envoy, Hadi said that his government had offered concessions and was willing to comply with any initiative for ending the war in Yemen.

The UN Yemen envoy said that he told the Yemeni president about his meetings with the Houthis in Oman and discussed resuming peace talks and putting into place a nationwide truce, as well as opening Sanaa airport.

Yemen’s president also repeated the same commitments to support peace efforts and foil Iran’s ambitions in Yemen during another meeting with the US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking in Riyadh on Sunday.

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