Yemen Houthis flex military muscle in parade as Riyadh seeks ceasefire

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Police troopers march during a military parade held by the Houthis to mark the anniversary of their takeover in Sanaa, Yemen September 21, 2023. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

By Abdulrahman Al-Ansi

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement displayed ballistic missiles and armed drones in a massive military parade in Sanaa on Thursday, a message to their foes in a Saudi-led coalition as they continue ceasefire negotiations with Riyadh.

The head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, and other officials watched as dozens of heavy trucks passed carrying cruise missiles and long range armed drones.

Thousands of soldiers marched under scorching sun while officers, wearing Yemeni flags as sashes, waved at traditional dancers from the podium.

The Iran-aligned group swept into the capital and most of north Yemen in 2014 when they ousted the internationally recognised government.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in the war in 2015 to try to restore the government, but the conflict has dragged on, killing tens of thousands and leaving millions relying on humanitarian assistance.

“We repeat our warnings to foreign forces… that we will not accept their presence on our lands, they have to leave or they will face the volcanoes of Yemeni anger,” Houthi Defence Minister Mohammed al-Atifi told the parade.

It came two days after Houthi negotiators left Riyadh, where they held a five-day round of talks with Saudi officials on a potential agreement paving the way to an end to the eight-year-old conflict.

With other meetings due, negotiations are focused on a full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, payment of wages for public servants, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for foreign forces to leave. An agreement would allow the United Nations to restart a broader political peace process.

Wounded and amputated soldiers paraded in wheelchairs and on crutches, marching past huge portraits of Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the movement’s leader.

Megaphones praised the “Yemeni resistance” against “the Saudi aggression”. Armoured vehicles and speedboats were displayed with signs that read: “Death to America, death to Israel!”.

“Our people believe that peace will be achieved only by imposing a deterrent military equation that forces the enemy to submit to all legitimate and just demands,” a statement from the Houthi military said.

(Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)