Top Houthi information ‘minister’ flees Yemen, seeks refuge in Saudi Arabia

The Houthi militia “information minister” has fled Yemen and sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, his counterpart in the Yemeni government said on Saturday.

Abdul-Salam Ali Gaber is the most senior member of the Houthi regime to defect since war broke out in 2014. He arrived in Saudi Arabia with his family after they fled Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, said Yemen’s Information Minister Moammer Al-Iryani.

Meanwhile, Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition took control of the main hospital in Hodeidah on Saturday as they continued the offensive to recapture the Red Sea port city from the Houthis.

Amnesty International had accused the Houthis of “deliberate militarization” of the hospital after they deployed snipers on its roof.

Fierce battles raged in the city’s east between the Houthis and government forces backed by airstrikes and helicopters. “The battles here are turning into street fighting,” a government official said.

The Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday it no longer required US inflight refueling for its warplanes in Yemen. “The Kingdom and the coalition have increased their capability to independently conduct inflight refueling,” the coalition said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Washington supported the Saudi decision. “The US will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country,” he said.