Yemen's Houthis parade military strength days after Saudi talks

AFP , Thursday 21 Sep 2023

Yemen's Houthi rebels held a major military parade in Sanaa on Thursday, marking nine years since they seized the capital and just days after peace talks with war foes Saudi Arabia.

Houthi rebels
File photo: A photo published by the Houthi Media Office on September 21, 2022 shows a Houthi military parade in Sanaa. AFP


Armoured cars, missiles and thousands of uniformed fighters filed past Houthi dignitaries in a show of strength from the Iran-backed group, as a military jet buzzed overhead.

The parade took place two days after a Houthi delegation left Riyadh following "positive" but inconclusive talks aimed at ending a war that has ravaged the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country.

The northern fighters took Sanaa in September 2014 and threatened to overrun the country, prompting a Saudi-led international military intervention from March 2015.

The war has left hundreds of thousands dead, through direct and indirect causes, and displaced millions of people in what the United Nations calls one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"We will double our level of combat-readiness during the coming weeks and months as part of a practical and responsible response to deal decisively and deterrently with any developments," said a Houthi statement to mark the parade.

"We are ready to fight battles in defence of the homeland and the people if the aggression does not adhere to the requirements of an honourable peace," it added.

Fighters on horseback and amputees on crutches paraded past a grandstand seating Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Supreme Political Council, and other senior Houthis.

Armour-plated cars with machine-gun turrets and aquamarine speedboats slowly trundled past, along with a giant model of an open Koran on the back of a truck.

Both sides have described the talks in Riyadh as "positive". Optimism has increased for Yemen since Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran resumed ties in March after a seven-year rupture.

"With all honesty, transparency and clarity, we affirm that Sanaa is ready to address any concerns of Riyadh, as much as Riyadh is ready to address Sanaa's concerns," Mashat said on the Houthis' Saba news agency on the eve of the parade.

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