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Senior Houthi leader killed in Arab coalition airstrike

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Arab coalition airstrike has killed a senior military leader of the Iran-backed Houthi militia last week in the central province of Marib, a Yemeni military official confirmed on Sunday.

Major-General Zakaria Yahiya Al-Shami, a minister in the Houthi cabinet and former chief of staff of the militia’s army, was killed in Marib while leading rebel fighters during an offensive in the province on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This is a major blow to the Houthis since Al-Shami is the commander of the Houthi military wing. This is the most important Houthi leader killed in Arab coalition airstrike since Al-Samad,” the official said, referring to Saleh Al-Samad, a senior Houthi leader who was killed in 2018.

In 2017, the Arab coalition placed Al-Shami on the top of its wanted list and announced a $20 million reward for information leading to his location and arrest.

Houthi-allied journalists mourned the death of Al-Shami but blamed his death on a Covid-19 infection.

More than 1,000 Houthis, including dozens of high-ranking military officers, have been killed this year following the resumption of a major offensive to seize control of Marib city, the government’s last stronghold in the northern part of the country that contains major oil and gas fields.

Hundreds of air raids by coalition warplanes have destroyed Houthi military enforcements and equipment in Marib, shifting the balance of power in the government’s favour and enabling loyalists to push back Houthi attacks.

Yemeni army officers and politicians believe that the death of Al-Shami and other military leaders will provide loyalists with a morale boost and could lead to the crumbling of Houthi forces.

The Arab coalition said on Sunday that it had targeted a weapons maintenance camp and ballistic missiles and drones assembly workshops affiliated to the Houthi militia in Sanaa.

“The targeting operation aims to neutralize and destroy the sources of impending attacks and to protect civilians,” the coalition said.

It also said that the operations carried out to comply with international humanitarian law and its customary rules.

One civilian was killed and four others critically wounded on Sunday when a mortar shell fired by Houthis exploded in a residential area in the Al-Jahmalia neighbourhood, east of Taiz city, residents and military officials said on Sunday.

Yemen’s army spokesperson in Taiz, Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, told Arab News that the shell ripped through a gathering of people outside the College of Arts in Taiz, killing a motorbike driver and fatally wounding four others.

“The Houthis targeted Taiz university with treacherous and cowardly shells,” Al-Baher said.

Houthis also tightened their siege of Taiz after closing a rugged road that links Taiz with other areas southeast of the city amid fighting between army troops and rebels on Saber mountain.

Residents have been using rough and dangerous slopes to leave or enter the city to avoid Houthi checkpoints at the southern, eastern and northern edges.

On Saturday, Houthis blocked roads from Taiz to Al-Huban, forcing residents to travel through dangerous terrain to leave the city, Al-Baher said.

“The closed road has no military significance for the national army since our main supply line comes through the western side of the city. But the Houthis seek to exacerbate people’s suffering and the humanitarian crisis in the country,” Al-Baher added.

Yemeni army troops attacked Houthis on Saber mountain, southeast of Taiz, as part of a push to seize control of new areas and eventually break the siege of the city.