News Analysis: Deadly Houthi drone strike on pro-gov't commanders threatens to derail Yemen peace process

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-12 01:48:19|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Murad Abdo

ADEN, Yemen, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- The deadly drone strike on Thursday by Yemen's Houthi rebels on pro-government senior officials attending a military parade in the country's southern province of Lahj could jeopardize the ongoing efforts to end the country's conflict peacefully, observers said.

The drone strike, which killed at least six soldiers and injured 20 others including the army's chief of staff, may also get the war-torn country away from the implementation of Sweden's agreement, they added.

"The attack on the Anad air base was a clear indication that the Houthi group does not want to abide by the peace agreements and had repeatedly breached several truces," said Salah Bin Laghbar, a political analyst and writer based in Aden.

"The Houthis used the cease-fire period just to prepare for such attacks against the government forces with no respect for the agreement signed between the two warring sides in Sweden," Salah said.

Yemen's internationally-backed government strongly condemned the drone strike against its strategic air base and called for firm stances of the international community against the Shiite Houthi rebels.

In a statement carried by state-run Saba news agency, the government called on the the U.S. government to condemn the Houthi attack.

The "noble efforts" of the UN envoy are being thwarted by the Houthis, and the purpose of its attacks is solely intended to "ignite further conflict and diminish the opportunity to establish a stable climate conducive to a final political settlement," the government said.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said he was alarmed by Thursday's escalation of violence in Yemen and urged all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation.

Griffiths called on the parties to create a conducive environment to maintain the positive momentum generated by the Sweden Consultations and the resumption of the Yemeni peace process.

According to Abdul-Raqeeb Hidyani, a political observer, the attack on the government senior leaders may lead to intensified attacks against the rebels-held areas in the next days.

"The government apparently received a huge blow but it will not tolerate the perpetrators of the attack and may launch attacks against key Houthi sites as a response," Hidyani said.

"The Houthis bear the whole responsibility for the latest escalation because they completely neglected the UN role and planned to assassinate the government military leaders," he added.

Yahya Abu Hatem, a military analyst, said the attack against one of the most important military bases in southern Yemen posed a serious threat to the Saudi-backed government.

"The attack bears the hallmarks of foreign experts who are helping the Houthi rebels militarily," the military analyst explained.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and said through their official media that the drone attack on the military parade in Lahj came as a "response to the continued raids of Saudi aggression targeting innocent citizens."

The Anad military air base lies some 60 km north of Yemen's temporary capital of Aden and witnessed several attacks by the Houthis including a missile attack last year.

The Houthis aligned with Iran launched a large military campaign and seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014, forcing Yemen's internationally-recognized President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to flee into the southern port city of Aden.

Subsequently, the pro-Houthi forces backed by armored vehicles attacked Aden and shelled Hadi's Republican Palace, forcing his exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily and began pounding the Houthi-controlled Sanaa in March 2015 in response to an official public request from Hadi to protect Yemen.

The internal military conflict between the Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government recently entered its fourth year, aggravating the suffering of Yemenis and deepening the world's worst humanitarian crisis in the country.

Three quarters of Yemen's population, or more than 22 million people, urgently require some form of humanitarian help, including 8.4 million people who struggle to find their next meal.