Houthis starve Hodeidah prisoners after riot

Food and water denied to inmates after they resisted attempt to make them fight

Shiite Huthi rebels are seen during a gathering to mobilise more fighters to the battlefront to fight pro-government forces, in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on June 18, 2018. The UAE, a key player in the coalition battling Huthi rebels in Yemen, warned the insurgents to withdraw unconditionally from the flashpoint port city of Hodeida, after UN peace efforts fizzled. / AFP / ABDO HYDER

Yemen's Houthi rebels have stopped giving food and water to captives held in Hodeidah's central prison and cut off their access to the outside world after they resisted an attempt to send them to fight against the government.

The rebels killed three prisoners and injured five others on Thursday evening when they opened fire to subdue a riot that broke out after lorries arrived to take the prisoners to the front lines. One bullet hit a gas pipeline, starting a fire in the prison.

Since then the rebels have stopped giving the prisoners food and water and have also stopped their relatives from visiting to bring them supplies, said Abdulrahman Al Mashra'ee, the head of the Sons of Hodeidah, a group of prominent citizens.

Mr Al Mashra'ee said he had received text messages from prisoners saying that the Houthis had cut off electricity supply to the prison and removed the solar panels that provide back-up power and light.

Abdulwahab Shoubail, a media activist, said the Houthis had also taken away the prisoners' mobile phones.

"During the last couple of days we kept trying to call some prisoners in the central prison but all their cellphones were off. Later on we were informed that the Houthi militia has banned using cellphones in the prison and looted all the cellphones which were with the prisoners," Mr Shoubail told The National.

The Houthis' punishment of the prisoners comes as the Iran-backed rebels step up forced recruitment of civilians to replenish their ranks following heavy battlefield losses against pro-government forces backed by the Arab Coalition.

In April, the Houthis ordered their officials in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, to enlist the civic employees as fighters. In Hodeidah, the rebels ordered the local university to enlist undergraduate students to fight along the western coast.

In the past two months the Houthis have launched campaigns to conscript civilians in Sanaa, Ibb, Amran, Mahweet and Hodeidah provinces. On June 17, rebels in capital killed 25-year-old Wadeel Fadhel, the son of a prominent anti-trafficking activist, in the street because he refused to fight for them.

On Friday, the Houthis staged a rally in Sanaa with the slogan "The western coast is a responsibility for all" to tell residents of the capital to send their sons to the front lines.

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Read more:

UAE reiterates long-term support for Yemeni people

Arab coalition: military pressure is bringing Houthis to negotiation table

UAE's Gargash: Liberation of Yemen's Hodeidah key to political solution

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