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Houthis take control of Sana'a air defenses: military sources - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gunmen loyal to the Shi'ite Houthi movement man a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sana’'a, Yemen, on October 18, 2014. (EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)

Gunmen loyal to the Shi’ite Houthi movement man a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sana’’a, Yemen, on October 18, 2014. (EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s air defenses are now under control of the Houthi movement after the Shi’ite militia took control of Daylami Air Base, home of the country’s main missile system close to the capital Sana’a, military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday.

A high-level military official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said: “The Houthis are now in control of more than one third of Yemen’s combined air, land and naval forces, including some of Yemen’s most strategically important bases.”

“Most military and political officials are under virtual house arrest, including President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi,” the source added.

The senior military official claimed that President Hadi is no longer in control of decision-making in Yemen, describing his role at the present time as “ceremonial.”

Observers are concerned that the latest developments in Yemen could raise regional tensions dramatically, particularly given the state of polarization between the largely Shi’ite movement and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), members of which have accused the Houthis of having close links to Iran.

The Houthis are in control of all security and military apparatus in the north of the country, and are expanding to other areas of Yemen, a second Yemeni military official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

If the Houthis manage to take complete control of Yemen’s arsenal, which reportedly includes Scud missiles as well as securing the necessary expertise to operate these, this is likely to be seen as a grave potential threat by Yemen’s neighbors.

Yemen’s air force, parts of which are already under Houthi control, also include Russian-made Sukhoi and MiG fighter jets.

Despite rising tensions, Yemen’s President Hadi spoke to GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif Al-Zayani on Wednesday, according to reports.

The two leaders reviewed Yemeni-Gulf cooperation and the latest developments in the country.

Hadi praised GCC political, security and economic support for Yemen, saying that he hopes that “GCC states keep on their support to complete the transitional phase’s requirements in accordance with the Gulf Initiative and the Peace and National Partnership Agreement,” according to Yemen’s state SABA news agency.