A missile attack on a parade for graduating Yemeni recruits of the Security Belt Forces on Sunday killed at least 10 people and wounded 21. The attack occurred in the town of al-Dhalea that is a frequent battleground between the forces of the government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Terrorists from al-Qaeda are also active in the area.
The Security Belt Forces are trained and supported by both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor to the north. Witnesses told the press on-site that an explosion occurred near a reviewing stand and that bodies littered the ground.
The witnesses told the press that all of the victims were civilians who were attending the parade. Yemeni officials blamed the Houthi rebels for this latest attack.
The Houthi rebels conducted a similar attack in August during another such parade in Aden. The attack killed 36 people, including a high-ranking commander. Aden is the seat of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government.
So far, no one has assumed responsibility for this newest attack: The Houthis told one media outlet that they didn’t have anything to do with it.
Yemen has been wracked by a civil war that began in 2015 when Shia Houthi rebels, heavily supported by Iran, seized control of the western part of the country. President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia. The situation prompted Saudi Arabia and UAE to put together an eight-country coalition of Sunni forces. The coalition began a devastating bombing campaign in an effort to restore Hadi’s legitimate government. The Saudis have received logistical and intelligence support from the United States and the UK.
The bombing and fighting have devastated the country’s infrastructure. Estimates of the dead range up to more than 100,000. Millions have been displaced. Currently, nearly two-thirds of Yemen’s population can’t subsist without outside assistance.
The town of al-Dhalea is mainly controlled by the southern separatist forces: It lies on the main south-to-north road that links the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by Hadi’s government, to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa.
In the past several months, there has been growing dissension among the anti-Houthi groups. The southerners who were graduating were part of what is called the Southern Transitional Council (STC). STC seeks a return to the independence that existed in the south before 1990. STC is allied with the Saudi-led coalition that’s been fighting the Houthi rebels. But the UAE-backed southerners are currently at odds with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is more closely allied with the Saudis that with UAE.
On Sunday, a statement released through Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said that the Iranian-backed group has six “sensitive” places in Saudi Arabia and three in the United Arab Emirates on a list of military targets for missile attacks. This aligns with the aggressive nature of Iran’s other actions in the region.
Iran has hit Saudi Arabia with missile attacks on civilian airports and oil infrastructure facilities as well as the capital of Riyadh. But in September Iran agreed to stop the missile attacks if the Saudis agreed to stop the bombing of Yemen. This prompted reports of behind the scenes negotiations between the two factions to find an end the brutal war.
Sunday’s attack could put all that in jeopardy and very well re-ignite the fighting by prompting a response from the Security Belt Forces.
Until the attack on Sunday’s parade, there had been a lull in the deadly fighting.