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Houthis setting up command centers in civilian areas: Saudi Defense Ministry
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A technician prepares a Royal Saudi Air Force warplane before it takes part in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, on April 5, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)

A technician prepares a Royal Saudi Air Force warplane before it takes part in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen, on April 5, 2015. (Saudi Press Agency)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Militias belonging to the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement are deliberately setting up military command centers in civilian areas, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at the Riyadh Airbase, Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said these included residential areas as well as hotels throughout the country.

“Coalition forces are doing their utmost to take the appropriate measures regarding these command centers set up by the Houthi militias inside residential areas, and we have the necessary patience to deal with this situation. For this reason we are choosing not to be rash in taking any action that could come at a later time,” he said.

Asiri had said on Saturday that coalition airstrikes against Houthi targets in and around the southern port city of Aden had been delayed in order to evacuate civilians from target areas.

There have been reports of Houthi militias controlling Aden. However, Asiri said on Sunday that the situation in the city was “stable” and that coalition forces were still in control of all the country’s major ports, where they have implemented a sea blockade since last Monday.

The coalition is targeting the Houthi movement in the country, which in February launched a coup deposing Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Coalition forces were also working to support volunteer forces allied to Hadi, who are currently blocking the Houthi advance toward the city.

The Saudi-led offensive, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, had successfully blocked off Houthi military supplies that were being moved toward Aden, Asiri said.

“Our aircraft targeted Houthi convoys consisting of six [large] vehicles loaded with military equipment, ammunition, and heavy weapons, which were on their way to . . . Al-Hudaydah via Aden. This came about through two consecutive bombing campaigns.”

Asiri said Houthi militias were deliberately cutting off water and electricity supplies to Aden, exasperating the humanitarian situation in the city, and also deliberately targeting civilian areas.

“We had wished to make available suitable infrastructure to serve the Yemeni people, but this infrastructure has been replaced with ammunition storehouses and numerous rockets,” Asiri said, in reference to Houthi militias co-opting the city’s infrastructure to store weapons and targeting civilian areas.

Humanitarian relief efforts coordinated by Operation Decisive Storm’s dedicated humanitarian and emergency committee were continuing, he said. The committee, announced on Sunday, also coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross in order to help the organization reach affected areas in Yemen.

The Red Cross had earlier requested a 24-hour ceasefire to allow its relief workers to safely enter the country.

Asiri revealed that coalition forces had agreed to allow planes carrying workers and supplies from the relief agency to enter the country on Sunday, but that the Red Cross had been unable to make the trip at the agreed-upon time.

“We informed the Red Cross that the time for the flight was 9 pm [local time on Sunday] . . . but the organization failed to make it on time for the flight and informed us they wished to take a different plane, because the carrier that was supposed to transfer them to Yemen did not wish to make the trip into the country,” he said.

“They [the Red Cross] have now asked for the trip to be rescheduled to a different, [as-yet] unspecified time.”