Yemen President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi visited Al Mahra on Wednesday to announce eight new infrastructure projects, on what was his first trip within the country since returning to the southern city of Aden in June, following a year in Saudi Arabia.
President Hadi, Yemen's internationally recognised leader, was accompanied by Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohamed Al Jaber and travelled to the southern province to initiate a series of development projects backed by Riyadh. They focus on rebuilding the country after three years of civil war sparked by the Houthi occupation of Yemen cities.
Al Mahra is Yemen’s second largest governorate after Hadramout and borders Oman.
Yemeni Minister of Information Moammar Al Eryani said the president was working on “a number of projects to benefit residents of the area” that borders the GCC ally of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
“The president will lay the foundation, and launch a number of reconstruction projects, both civil and economic, provided for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Mr Al Eryani said.
The Saudi government launched its reconstruction programme in Yemen to coincide with Mr Hadi’s visit. In a tweet, the initiative said the eight projects would include “water purification plant construction; expansion of Nishtun Port, roads, and hospital; hospital construction; construction of King Salman Education and Medical City university & hospital; airport renovation, construction of power plant”.
Projects will include the King Salman Medical and Educational City in Algaida that will provide for the governorate's population. During his trip, president Hadi met the Saudi ambassador to Yemen and residents of the area.
Meanwhile, the pro-government Al Amalikah Brigade and troops from the Yemeni National Resistance led by Maj Gen Tariq Saleh scored a key victory in the Al Duraihimi district of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Monday when they overran the Houthi rebels' headquarters in the area.
Coalition-backed forces have encircled the city as the UN tries to negotiate a Houthi withdrawal from the key port that they seized at the start of the civil war.
Sources on the ground told The National that dozens of Houthi fighters were killed amid fierce fighting in central Al Duraihimi.
Also on Monday, Arab Coalition air strikes targeted Houthi fighters in the villages of Al Shagan and Al Manqam, as well as the headquarters of the agriculture department in the district of Al Duraihimi, a weapons and ammunition cache. A dozen Houthi fighters were killed and two armoured vehicles destroyed.
North of Al Duraihimi in the district of Al Marawiyah, Houthi fighters have been rounding up and punishing young men who refuse to join Houthi ranks.
Sami Bari, a media activist from Al Marawiyah told The National that on Monday, Houthi fighters killed a young man in a public market because of his refusal to join them.
"The murderers were driving a military car," said Mr Bari. "They are from Amran province."
The Saudi-led coalition, of which the UAE is a member, has steadily regained areas seized by the Iran-backed rebels since the onset of the civil war in 2015. Yemeni forces backed by the coalition have encircled the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah as the UN tries to mediate a Houthi exit.
The rebels have announced a two-week pause to their naval operations in the Red Sea. They said “it can be renewed and expanded to other fronts” if it was reciprocated. The coalition has long called for an end to hostilities in Hodeidah and a Houthi withdrawal from the city.
The coalition on July 1 paused a ground offensive on Hodeidah, in what the UAE has described as a bid to give United Nations-led peace efforts a chance.
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been pushing for a deal that envisions the rebels ceding control of Hodeidah port to a UN-supervised committee.
A report delivered by experts to the Security Council this week suggested Iran might be willing to play a “constructive role” in concluding the war in Yemen. But analysts quickly derided that suggestion as “utterly ridiculous” because of Iran’s continued support for the Houthi rebels to attack Yemeni forces, coalition troops and Saudi territory.
"Iran is prolonging the Yemen war. It is Iranian ballistic missiles that are brought into Yemen, that is what is facilitating the war. It's not just one. Its several kinds of Iranian missiles," Mohammed Alyahya of the Gulf Research Centre told The National.
“The only reason they are still fighting is because of Iranian support: political, logistical, militarily.”
But the new report also confirmed that it appeared Iran was still arming the Houthis with ballistic missiles and drone technologies, one of the key reasons that United States President Donald Trump pulled Washington from the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015.
Iranian politicians have given president Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before parliament to answer questions on his government's handling of Iran's economic struggles, state media reported on Wednesday.
It is the first time parliament has summoned president Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet following a deterioration in relations with the US, Iran's growing economic difficulties and the rial’s decline.
It came after US President Donald Trump claimed that talks between the two countries were imminent.
"I have a feeling they'll be talking to us pretty soon," president Trump told a rally in Tampa, Florida, before adding: "And maybe not, and that's OK too."
But Tehran quickly waved away his claim, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying that “threats, sanctions and PR stunts won’t work”.
With Washington pulling out of the nuclear pact and set to reimpose full sanctions on Iran from August 6, Iran has responded coolly to Mr Trump's offer on Monday to talk "any time" without preconditions.
"The Iranian people do not authorise officials to meet the Great Satan ... Mr Trump, Iran is not North Korea," said General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, in an open letter published in local media.