Aden: Yemen’s deputy chief of staff was killed yesterday when Al Houthi militia battling government forces fired a ballistic missile at an army camp on the Red Sea coast, according to a military source.
Army deputy chief of staff Major General Ahmad Saif Al Yafii was killed by a heat-seeking missile on the outskirts of the strategic coastal town of Mocha, the source told AFP.
“Major General Ahmad Saif Al Yafei was killed along with several others when the missile hit the camp near Al [Mocha] city early this morning,” a military source, who is also a member of the general’s family, told Reuters.
Saudi-owned Arabiya TV also reported Yafei’s death.
Yemeni government forces captured Mocha from the Iran-allied Al Houthis last month.It was their biggest success in months. The town lies close to the Bab Al Mandab strait.
The rebels still hold the capital, Sana’a, and much of the central and northern highlands as well as the coast around Hodeida.
Before the 19th Century, Mocha was Yemen’s main port and export hub for coffee grown in the highlands, and its historical symbolism meant it was fiercely fought over.
Its role was overtaken by Hodeida and second city, Aden, where the government is based.
Cost to civilians
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator in the country warned on Tuesday that seven million Yemenis are closer than ever to starvation.
“Seven million Yemenis do not know where their next meal will come from and are ever closer to starvation” in the country of 27 million people, Jamie McGoldrick said.
“Over 17 million people are currently unable to adequately feed themselves and are frequently forced to skip meals — women and girls eat the least and last,” he said in a statement.
Yemen’s war pits the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against Al Houthi rebels allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, intervened in Yemen’s civil war nearly two years ago to back President Hadi after he was ousted from the capital, Sana’a, by Houthi forces.
The fighting has intensified since the coalition intervened in March 2015.
Since early January, pro-government forces have pressed a major offensive aimed at recapturing Yemen’s Red Sea coastline, and retook the southwestern port of Mocha earlier this month.
“I am deeply concerned with the escalation of conflict and militarisation of Yemen’s western coast.
“It is coming at a great cost to civilians,” McGoldrick said.
Unexploded rockets have landed inside the rebel-held port of Hodeida, he said, “reducing even further the number of ships and imports” vital for Yemen’s food supplies.
“Given that the country is 80-90 per cent dependent on imported food staples, I am compelled to raise the alarm,” the UN official said.
“If left unabated, these factors combined could accelerate the onset of famine.”
Also on Tuesday, the United Nations children’s agency warned that 462,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition.
The UN aid chief warned last month that the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country was sliding deeper into humanitarian crisis and could face famine this year.
Stephen O’Brien said that without “immediate action”, famine was “a possible scenario for 2017.”
More than 7,400 people have been killed since the intervention began nearly two years ago, including around 1,400 children, according to the United Nations.