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Houthi defector says Iranian-backed militia committed 'heinous crimes' against Yemeni people

DUBAI: Houthi militias, backed by Iran, have committed "heinous crimes" against the people of Yemen, the militia's propaganda chief who deserted the group on Friday has said.

Abdelsalem Jaber said conditions are ripe for the “swift completion of the process of liberation” of Yemen from the control of the Houthis.

Speaking at a news conference in Riyadh on Sunday, Jaber, the self-styled information minister, accused the Houthis of a long list of misdeeds, including turning state institutions into warring islands ruled by militias.

“Detainees in Houthi prisons are being treated inhumanely,” Jaber said, adding that what was happening in Houthi-controlled areas “is the work of militias” that have competing “centers of power.”

Jaber is the most senior member of the Houthi militia to defect to the government side since the Yemeni war began in 2014.

Jaber arrived in Saudi Arabia with his family after fleeing the capital Sanaa, Moammer al-Iryani, information minister of the Yemeni government, said on Saturday.

Confirming the longstanding allegations that the Houthis were being aided by Iran and other countries, Jaber said Yemenis reject “the foreign domination of the country.”

Jaber said the Houthis’ dominance was in its final days, adding that the “Yemeni people have rejected Houthi injustices and are waiting for an opportunity to get rid of them.”

Jaber’s defection comes against a backdrop of continued clashes in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a key facility that Yemeni government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition are seeking to retake from the Houthis.

Fighting has flared in Hodeidah’s east between the Houthis and government forces backed by air strikes and helicopters.

“The battles here are turning into street fighting,” a government official said on Saturday.

Government forces on Saturday recovered control of the May 22 Hospital as part of the offensive.

Amnesty International, the international human-rights watchdog group, has accused the Houthis of “deliberate militarization” of the hospital after they deployed snipers on its roof.

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