Yemeni Rebels Release Photos, Say They Killed, Wounded 500 Saudi Fighters

The Saudi-led coalition has yet to respond to the rebels' claims. If confirmed, the assault would represent one of the most significant victories for the Houthis in the nearly five-year civil war gripping the nation.

Yemeni Rebels Release Photos, Say They Killed, Wounded 500 Saudi Fighters

Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia has been a key battle zone (Representational)

CAIRO:

Yemeni rebels on Sunday said they carried out a major assault on forces of a Saudi Arabian-led coalition near the two nations' border, releasing footage they say shows hundreds of captured troops, including Saudi officers, and destroyed Saudi military vehicles. The rebels also said they killed or wounded 500 coalition soldiers.

The Saudi-led coalition has yet to respond to the rebels' claims. If confirmed, the assault would represent one of the most significant victories for the Iranian-aligned rebels, known as Houthis, in the nearly five-year civil war gripping the Middle East's poorest nation.

The Houthi-owned Al-Masirah television network on Sunday broadcast footage showing a long, snaking line of what the rebels said were captured troops walking in rugged terrain. Many of the men, who apparently surrendered to the rebels, were dressed in flip flops and the traditional sarong-like clothing worn in Yemen and parts of Saudi Arabia. A handful wore tan camouflage uniforms. At least two of the men said on camera that they were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Other images showed burning armored vehicles with Saudi markings and weapons that the Houthis said they seized. Houthi fighters are also shown apparently launching attacks on coalition troops, clashes that left what appears to be corpses in Saudi military uniforms.

The Washington Post could not independently verify any of the images.

If claims about the attack are found to be credible, it is certain to fuel more concerns in Washington and Riyadh that Iran is behind the rebels' growing military capabilities, which in recent months have included numerous drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi soil.

It would also help bring credibility to the Houthis' claims that they had orchestrated the largest ever assault on Saudi oil facilities, on Sept. 14, which temporarily shut down oil production and rattled the global economy. The Trump administration and Riyadh say the attack did not come from Yemen and blame Iran, which has denied the allegation.

The fresh tensions come amid reports in the Wall Street Journal that Saudi Arabia has agreed to a partial cease-fire deal involving four areas in Yemen, including Sanaa, the capital. That follows a surprise offer on Sept. 20 by the Houthis to halt drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition stops launching airstrikes. A few days later, 15 members of one family, including seven children, were reportedly killed in an apparent coalition airstrike in southern Yemen.

A Houthi military spokesman, speaking to journalists in Sanaa, did not say when the offensive took place but said it occurred near Saudi Arabia's southern Najran region, close to the border with northern Yemen's Houthi-dominated Saada province.

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The spokesman, Yahya Sahria, said the rebels had captured more than 2,000 troops and "hundreds" of armored vehicles after defeating three coalition military brigades. He said Saudi army officers and soldiers were among the captured. Other Houthi officials reached by phone in Sanaa said that the vast majority were Yemeni soldiers fighting with the coalition and that about a dozen were Saudi nationals.

The coalition, composed of Sunni Muslim countries in the region, joined Yemen's conflict in March 2015 to restore the country's internationally recognized government, which was driven out of Sanaa by the Shiite Houthis. The coalition also seeks to thwart Shiite Iran's growing regional ambition, which includes its alliance with the Houthis.

The United States and other Western powers are backing the coalition with intelligence, logistical support and billions of dollars in arms sales. The conflict has deepened a humanitarian crisis that has left more than 80 percent of Yemen's population of nearly 30 million in need of assistance, including millions on the brink of famine.

Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia has been a key battle zone, where the Houthis have engaged with Yemeni government forces in numerous clashes.

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Ali al Mujahed in Sanaa contributed to this report.



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