UAE-trained Giants Brigades pull out of key Yemen battleground - The News International

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ADEN: A United Arab Emirates-trained militia that delivered a series of defeats to Yemen’s rebels has begun withdrawing from a key area of the conflict, it announced on Friday.

The Giants Brigades said it was repositioning its forces after driving the rebels out of Shabwa province and beginning a push north towards Marib, the strategically vital city that the rebels have been trying to capture for months.

The surprise announcement followed two drone-and-missile attacks by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels on the UAE, the first of which killed three oil workers. "After the great success achieved by the Giants Brigades... it began transferring its brigades to the main headquarters," said a statement sent to AFP.

"The Brigades repositioned its forces in Shabwa governorate after liberating the districts of Bihan and Harib and securing them completely from the Huthi militia," it added. The Giants Brigades, fighting as part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition, dealt a serious blow to the Huthi campaign after moving into Shabwa.

The fighters were sent from their base on the Red Sea coast "to support the Yemeni government in its battle on all fronts", the coalition said on November 15. After driving the rebels out of Shabwa, they also took Harib district in Marib province and looked set to press on towards Marib city, the government’s last northern holdout that has been under rebel pressure for months.

After their defeats in Shabwa, the rebels seized a UAE-flagged ship on January 3 before launching their deadly strike on Abu Dhabi two weeks later. In the early hours of Monday, UAE and US forces scrambled to intercept two ballistic missiles over Abu Dhabi, lighting up the night sky over the wealthy Emirati capital.

Saudi-led coalition forces launched their intervention against the rebels in March 2015, the start of a conflict that has directly cost more than 150,000 lives and displaced millions of people.

The escalation of tensions between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prompted humanitarian organisations on the ground to sound the alarm, as the United Nations forecasts January will “almost certainly” be a record-shattering month for civilian casualties in the country.

“We expect another wave of internally displaced people, increased number of casualties, access constraints due to air strikes … these are some of the things we expect at the moment,” Ahmed Mahat, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen, said.

The UN special envoy for the country, Hans Grundberg, and humanitarian coordinator David Gressley warned that January will likely record the highest monthly death toll in the conflict after air raids and missile attacks hit hospitals, telecommunication infrastructure, airports, a water facility and a school.

According to a joint statement by Grundberg and Gressley, the escalation is exacerbating an already severe humanitarian crisis, complicating efforts to provide relief, threatening regional security, and undermining efforts to bring an end to the conflict.

Since the beginning of January, eight million Yemenis have received reduced assistance, the UN said, because of the spike in violence. On the ground in the capital Sanaa, Mahat confirmed the UN’s assessment.

“The front line is really active, more than ever,” the MSF head of the mission said. “This year we thought the situation would be calmer, that there would be negotiations, and the Yemenis would be spared more agony. Instead, we have seen an escalation.”

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