Members of the General People's Congress party, once headed by Yemen's slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh (pictured in the poster), enter a meeting of the party's leadership in Sanaa, Yemen January 7, 2018. Image Credit: Reuters

Al Mukalla: Yemen’s General People’s Congress party have accused the Iran-backed Al Houthi militants of seeking to hijack the party by pressuring the party to choose a new leader.

The accusations came as party members in Sana’a chose Sadiq Ameen Abu Ras on Sunday to succeed its founder Yemen’s ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh who assassinated by Al Houthis on December.

In a statement carried by the Saba news agency, the party’s members, who live in government-controlled areas or abroad, said that Al Houthis have released senior members of the party, who have been under house arrest since Saleh’s killing, and forced them to meet in Sana’a to select a new leader to the party and issuing a statement backing Al Houthis and criticising the Saudi-led coalition.

“Al Houthis’ attempts to hijack the party in Sana’a through [pushing the party’s] hostages and prisoners to legitimise their crimes and pass their policies do not reflect the party’s unchanged nationalist principles and the speech of its founder before his martyrdom by Al Houthis.” the statement said.

In the wake of supressing a brief military uprising by Saleh, Al Houthis launched sweeping arrests and executions of Saleh’s supporters and members of the General People’s Congress.

Al Houthis took control of Saleh’s media outlets including Yemen Today TV and a newspaper that carries the same name.

The party said that most its members are currently in exile or in liberated areas and Al Houthis are trying to dismantle the party by poaching its members who live inside their territories.

Two days before his death, Saleh vowed to “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition and officially ended three years of uneasy alliance with Al Houthis by urging his supporters in all Yemeni provinces to revolt against them.

Yasser Al Awadhi, a senior member of the party and Saleh’s close friend, said that he would oppose any statement from the party that does not echo Saleh’s appeal to his supporters to sever tries with Al Houthis.

“I am against any statement [from the party] that does not declare severing ties with killers of Saleh and the Secretary General [of the party] and other issues,” Al Awadhi said on his official twitter feed on Monday.

The General People’s Congress was founded by Saleh in 1982 and has dominated the political landscape in Yemen ever since.

The party and the Yemen’s Socialist Party are credited for unifying the former South and North Yemen in 1990.

Meanwhile on the ground, Yemeni troops are continuing to advance towards Al Hays in the Al Houthi-controlled coastal province of Hodeida, with heavy backing from the Saudi-led Arab Coalition forces.

The UAE Air Force has provided cover for the troops, cutting the supply lines of the Iranian-backed Al Houthi coup militias between Taiz and Hodeida, south of Al Hays.

The forces are advancing towards farms adjacent to a line between Al Hays and Taiz.

UAE forces have secured the road, cutting the supply route of Al Houthis and capturing dozens of militiamen while regaining control of a number of villages in the region.

A number of tanks and military vehicles were also captured.

On Sunday, an Al Houthi militia commander turned himself in to UAE forces and voiced willingness to work for the Saudi-led Arab Coalition.

Shaikh Hamir Ebrahim, who was in charge of the Hais and Al Khokha fronts in Yemen, urged, in statements to the Emirates News Agency, his tribesmen to surrender, turn themselves in and join the ranks of the Arab coalition against the Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels in order to “liberate the entire Yemeni territories.”

He added that the rebels are forcing the Yemeni people to fight along with them before leaving them in the lurch in utter suffering along with their children who are “forced to fight on the frontlines.”

“Whoever dares to reject their orders is targeted and expelled away along with his family from their tribe and from the entire area,” he said.

He noted that he has received fair and decent treatment from the UAE forces after giving himself in, urging all those fighting along with the Al Houthi militias to renounce them and adhere to “the righteous path of the Arab Coalition who are fighting for restoring legitimacy in Yemen.”

He called upon all Yemeni people to close ranks against the Al Houthis who, he said, are “wreaking havoc on all Yemeni territories”, affirming that the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces are going on the “right path toward achieving victory and liberating the entire Yemeni lands from the grip of the rebels.”

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi came to power in early 2012 after massive Arab Spring protests ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh who ruled Yemen for more than 30 years.

He was forced to flee to Aden after escaping Al Houthi-imposed house arrest in 2014.

Since then, Hadi has led an offensive to liberate Al Houthi-occupied territories. With help from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, it has achieved widespread gains in many provinces, but Al Houthis still control the capital Sana’a and most northern provinces including Hodeida, Ibb, Mahweet, Yareem, Amran, Baydha and Hajja.