Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate halt to the fighting in Yemen on Thursday as Saudi Arabia announced that it had foiled a Houthi attempt to infiltrate its territory, with an unidentified number of Houthi fighters surrendering to Saudi troops.
“I am calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen by all parties,” Ban said in comments at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday. “The Saudis have assured me that they understand there must be a political process. I call on all Yemenis to participate, and in good faith,” he added.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is sponsoring Yemen peace talks, set to be held in Riyadh within the coming month, to resolve the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Although the talks were in the planning stages before the launch of Operation Decisive Storm, the conference is now being billed as a vital part of ending the ongoing conflict in Yemen. However it is not yet clear whether the Houthis will attend, with the GCC and legitimate president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi imposing a number of stringent conditions for attending the talks, including calling for the Houthis to put down their arms and explicitly recognize Hadi as Yemen’s president.
Meanwhile, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthi fighters had sought to cross Yemen’s northern border into Saudi Arabia on Thursday but had been stopped by Saudi security forces.
Operation Decisive Storm spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri confirmed that the Houthis are in retreat in a number of areas across the country and are lacking “command and control” following coalition airstrikes.
He described Houthi attacks as being “random individual operations” lacking broader coordination, adding that coalition forces have recently stepped up their attacks on Houthi targets.
Asiri confirmed that coalition forces are now focusing on attacking Houthi militia brigades and allied fighters, including brigades loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He said that many Yemeni military units that had initially sided with the Houthis have now abandoned the coup and announced their support for President Hadi following coalition airstrikes.
Commander of Yemen’s 135th Brigade, based out of Hadhramaut in the east of the country, announced on Thursday that his men—consisting of around 4,000 soldiers—had abandoned the Saleh-Houthi coup and are now backing Hadi. Lt. Yahya Abu Oja made the comments to Al-Hadath news channel, adding that he expected many other Yemeni military units that had defected from the central government to abandon “Saleh’s militia” and return to supporting “legitimacy.”
Yemen’s 123rd Brigade, based out of the eastern Al-Mahrah province, also announced its backing for Hadi and Operation Decisive Storm on Thursday, according to local media.
Asiri praised the Yemeni brigades that have renounced the coup and returned to supporting legitimacy, promising that the next few days will see even more Yemeni defectors returning to the fold.