This image grab taken from a handout video released by Yemenís Houthis shows Saudi mercenaries captured in an August offensive near the southern Saudi region of Najran. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia is reportedly using the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as a "fig leaf" for an exit from the quagmire in war-torn Yemen, where fighters from the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement now have the upper hand against Saudi-led invaders.
An article published by The Economist newspaper on Saturday raised doubts about the objective of the so-called ceasefire declared by the Riyadh regime in Yemen earlier this month.
The Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging the war on Yemen since 2015 to reinstall the regime of pro-Riyadh former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, claimed that its unilateral two-week truce in Yemen was designed to head off the outbreak.
"Cynics doubt that compassion is truly motivating Saudi Arabia, a majority Sunni nation. For years its bombs have hit hospitals, houses and schools in Yemen-often, it seemed, on purpose. Rather, the war is turning and the Saudis are losing heart," the report said.
It also referred to Saudi Arabiaís failure to purge the Yemeni capital of resistance fighters more than five years into the aggression, adding that the kingdom is now seeking to stop the Houthisí retaliatory attacks on its own territory.
"Despite its vicious air campaign, Saudi Arabia has been unable to dislodge the Houthis from most of Yemenís population centers, including the capital, Sanaía. Its main international ally, the United Arab Emirates, began scaling back its involvement in the war last year," the report said. "In recent months they have held secret talks with the Houthis. Gone is the hope of returning Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the exiled Yemeni president, to Sanaía. Now the kingdomís goal is to stop Houthi missile strikes on its own territory."
Yemeni Analyst Abdulghani al-Iryani emphasized, "The Saudis want a way out and are using the coronavirus as a fig leaf."
However, the report said, the Houthis sense Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salmanís "desperation," reject the ceasefire and want a better deal that makes Saudi Arabia lift its air and sea blockade of Yemen, pay reparations for the damage it has caused on the impoverished country and recognize the popular Houthis as the legitimate government.
If the Saudis do not agree, the Houthis promise "a major escalation inside the kingdom," it added.
The Houthis have dismissed the truce claim as "false and misleading," saying Saudi Arabia has even escalated its offensives against Yemen in recent days.
They have also been advancing in Yemeni provinces along the Saudi border, making gains in Jawf and fighting in the crags above oil and gas-rich Maírib.
"The Saudi intervention began as a vanity project for Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince, who sought to flex his muscles in the face of rival Iran," the report said, noting that the heir to the Saudi throne "is now looking at a quagmire that is diverting resources at a time of plummeting oil revenues. Houthi attacks on the kingdom threaten its reputation for stability. Their missiles have struck oil pipelines and targeted the capital, Riyadh. Saudi Arabia does not want anything to upset its hosting of the G20 summit in November."
Yemen announced its first COVID-19 case on April 10, as aid organizations warned the countryís health system is ill-equipped to handle the crisis.
The Western-sponsored Saudi bombing campaign has knocked out half of clinics and hospitals in Yemen, where an estimated 24 million people - more than 80 percent of the population - depend on some form of humanitarian or protection assistance for survival.
According to a tally released last November by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project or ACLED, more than 100,000 Yemenis have been killed in the Saudi war.
Yemenis thwart several Saudi attacks
Speaking on Friday, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, the spokesman for Yemenís Armed Forces, said army soldiers and allied Popular Committees fighters had managed to foil five Saudi attacks on Maíribís Sirwah district.
The al-Masirah television network quoted him as saying that dozens of Saudi-backed mercenaries were killed and wounded and four of their armored vehicles were destroyed.
SOURCE: PRESS TV