Sanaa, Yemen – Yemen’s Houthi rebels held a major military parade in Sanaa on Thursday, marking nine years since they seized the capital and just days after peace talks with war foes Saudi Arabia.
Armored cars, missiles and thousands of uniformed fighters filed past Houthi dignitaries in a show of strength from the Iran-backed group, as a military jet buzzed overhead.
The parade took place two days after a Houthi delegation left Riyadh following “positive” but inconclusive talks aimed at ending a war that has ravaged the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.
The northern fighters took Sanaa in September 2014 and threatened to overrun the country, prompting a Saudi-led international military intervention from March 2015.
The war has left hundreds of thousands dead, through direct and indirect causes, and displaced millions of people in what the United Nations calls one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
“We will double our level of combat-readiness during the coming weeks and months as part of a practical and responsible response to deal decisively and deterrently with any developments,” said a Houthi statement to mark the parade.
“We are ready to fight battles in defense of the homeland and the people if the aggression does not adhere to the requirements of an honorable peace,” it added.
Fighters on horseback and amputees on crutches paraded past a grandstand seating Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Supreme Political Council, and other senior Houthis.
Armor-plated cars with machine-gun turrets and aquamarine speedboats slowly trundled past, along with a giant model of an open Koran on the back of a truck.
Both sides have described the talks in Riyadh as “positive”. Optimism has increased for Yemen since Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran resumed ties in March after a seven-year rupture.
“With all honesty, transparency and clarity, we affirm that Sanaa is ready to address any concerns of Riyadh, as much as Riyadh is ready to address Sanaa’s concerns,” Mashat said on the Houthis’ Saba news agency on the eve of the parade.