Yemen rebels urge full withdrawal of Saudi-led coalition

DUBAI (AFP) – Yemeni rebels yesterday called for the full withdrawal of the Saudi-led military coalition after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key part of that coalition, said it had begun reducing its deployment.

“We call on the aggressors to withdraw from Yemen, as the Republic of Yemen rejects aggression, siege and air embargo,” tweeted Head of the rebels’ Higher Revolutionary Committee and an influential political figure Mohammed Ali al-Huthi.

“Withdrawing from Yemen is the ideal decision that must be taken at this time,” he added.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to back the internationally-recognised government against the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels, but the UAE announced on Monday that it was redeploying and reducing its troop presence in the country.

“We do have troop levels that are down for reasons that are strategic in (the Red Sea port city of) Hodeida and reasons that are tactical” in other parts of the country, a senior UAE official, who requested anonymity, told reporters.

“It is very much to do with moving from what I would call a military-first strategy to a peace-first strategy, and this is I think what we are doing.”

The official however reiterated UAE’s commitment to the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition, saying Abu Dhabi discussed redeployment with its Saudi partner “extensively”.

Yemen’s rebels – who have faced persistent coalition bombing since March 2015 that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll – have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the Saudi border in recent weeks. At least one person has been killed and 56 wounded in Saudi Arabia in three such Huthi attacks since June 12, according to Saudi authorities.

A file photo shows Emirati soldiers standing guard out the rear gate of a Chinook military helicopter travelling from Saudi Arabia to Yemen. The United Arab Emirates has drawn down the number of its troops in Yemen, but has not withdrawn from the country and remains a key member of the Saudi-led coalition at war there, a senior Emirati official confirmed on Monday. – AP