March 26, 2019
By Abdulrahman Al-Ansi
SANAA (Reuters) – Yemenis held a mass rally in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday to mark the fourth anniversary of a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the country to the brink of starvation.
It was a show of support for the Iran-aligned Houthi movement as the United Nations pushes ahead with tough talks with the group and the Saudi-backed government to find a political solution to the conflict.
The Houthis have controlled the capital and Yemen’s largest populated areas since 2014 when they ousted the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Men, women and children marched, waving the red, white and black national colors, and chanted slogans against Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the Houthis, and the United States which backs it.
They also blamed U.S. ally Israel for destroying the country.
Massive speakers played “America and Israel, death and mutilation to you” and “five or fifty years, we will face the criminal coalition”.
Reuters witnesses said a crowd of tens of thousands of people, including supporters of the Houthis’ Ansarullah group, had gathered in Sabeen square in central Sanaa since the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“This is a message to the world, that at the start of the fifth year (of the war), Yemenis will be stronger… a message that the Yemeni resistance will be even greater,” said Mohammed Haidarah, a protester.
Many painted their faces in the colors of the Yemeni flag and others danced holding assault rifles and traditional daggers as Houthi leaders cheered the crowd from the main podium.
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, denounced the U.S. decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan Heights.
“It is a recognition from someone who does not own to someone who does not deserve,” he told the crowd.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the war pitting the Houthis against the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore Hadi’s government to power.
The war has displaced over two million people and driven the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country to the verge of famine.
Both sides agreed at U.N.-sponsored talks in December to a truce and troop withdrawal from the port city of Hodeidah, which has become a focus of the war, and an exchange of prisoners.
The ceasefire has broadly held, although sporadic clashes continued as the United Nations struggled to implement the withdrawal of troops, a confidence-building measure meant to clear the way for a broader peace settlement after four years of war.
However, violence has escalated in other areas since the U.N. peace process started.
(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Ed Osmond)