RIYADH: Yemen’s Houthi militias are recruiting children by force and making them fight on the front lines, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday.
Col. Turki Al-Maliki, the coalition spokesman, said the Iran-backed group are also using civilians as human shields in Hodeidah, where a battle is raging for control of the country’s largest port.
The claims came a day after Saudi air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis over the capital.
The attack brings the total number of ballistic missiles launched by the militia against Saudi Arabia to 155, Al-Maliki said at a press conference in Riyadh.
In Yemen, he said coalition forces were removing hundreds of thousands of land mines planted by the Houthis.
Army engineering support teams were continuing demining operations in Hajjah, northwestern Yemen and more than 600,000 planted by the Houthis in Hodeidah have been removed so far, Al-Maliki said.
Yemeni pro-government forces backed by the Arab coalition are fighting to seize the city from the Houthis. The capture of the city and its port – one of the main supply lines to the country, could prove to be pivotal in the outcome of the war.
The coalition have called on the Houthis to withdraw from the city.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in Aden on Wednesday for talks with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the capital Sanaa when the Houthis seized the city in 2014.
Al-Maliki also gave an update on progress made by pro-government forces in other parts of the country.
The coalition spokesman said eight members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, were seized in an ambush in Saada – the province in the north which is a Houthi stronghold.
They were captured on Monday along with a senior Houthi leader in the Al-Malahit district.
Al-Maliki said Yemeni forces had succeeded in controlling several villages in Al-Bayda province and that the Yemeni army had regained control of several positions in Harf Sufyan, west of Taiz.
“The Yemeni army, with the support of the Saudi-led coalition, continues its advances in Saada,” he added.
Al-Maliki said the Saudi-led coalition supports all the efforts of UN envoy Griffiths.
The Saudi coalition sent 12 trucks carrying aid to Hodeidah and the coalition will continue to allow relief vessels to enter the port, despite Houthi efforts to block aid access to civilians.