Houthis rally in north Yemen as their fighters push south

·2 min read

(Corrects name of a southern district to Bayhan instead of Bijan)

SANAA (Reuters) -Thousands of supporters of Yemen's Houthis rallied in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the ousting of the government, as the group's fighters pushed through frontlines in oil-producing regions of the country.

The Iran-aligned movement swept into the capital and most of north Yemen in 2014 when they ousted the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in the war in 2015 to try to restore Hadi's government to power but the conflict has dragged on, killing tens of thousands and causing the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

A vast crowd of supporters thronged Sanaa's central public squares waving the red, white and black national colours, and chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States. Some carried signs that read "Death to America".

"These are glorious days in Yemen's history, it's like we are born again because we rose up... against the aggressors," said one protester, Hamdi Ziyad.

Houthi leader Khaled al-Madani told the cheering crowd that it was the anniversary of "freedom and independence".

Traditional Yemeni dancers performed on the main podium while many carried pictures of Houthi leaders Abdulmalik al-Houthi and Saleh al-Samad.

Samad, who held the post of president in the Houthi-controlled administration which runs most of northern Yemen, was killed in April 2018 by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the port city of Hodeidah on Yemen's west coast.

The Houthis executed nine men on Saturday following their conviction for involvement in his killing, causing a global outcry.

MILITARY ADVANCES

Similar pro-Houthi rallies were also reported on Tuesday in northern provinces including Saada, Hodeidah and Emran.

Meanwhile, Houthi forces pushed through frontlines and made advances in several districts in the central region of Marib and the southern area of Shabwa, military officials told Reuters.

Marib hosts Yemen's biggest gas fields while Shabwa has several oil fields and the country's sole liquified natural gas terminal.

Houthi fighters seized the Bayhan district and advanced towards Assilan in Shabwa, where Janna oil field is located, and attacked Hareb district in Marib, they said.

The escalation came as U.N. and U.S. envoys for Yemen, Hans Grundberg and Tim Lenderking, visited Saudi Arabia and Oman to try and revive stalled peace talks.

The talks are focused on measures to lift a blockade on Houthi-held ports and Sanaa airport in return for a Houthi commitment to a ceasefire.

(Reporting by Reuters team in Sanaa, Mohamed Ghobari and Reyam Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing by Aziz El YaakoubiEditing by Gareth Jones)

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