A high-ranking Yemeni military official has praised the recent interception and targeting of a Tornado multirole combat aircraft of the Royal Saudi Air Force in the country’s northern al-Jawf province, stressing that 2020 will be the year of Yemeni air defense systems that will change the course of battles against the Saudi-led coalition.
Spokesman for Yemen’s Air Force, Major General Abdullah al-Jafri, told Arabic-language Mirat al-Jazeera news website in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the downing of the Tornado jet confirms beyond any doubt that 2020 will be the year of modern and advanced air defense systems that can either track, damage or shoot down enemy aircraft.
He also echoed earlier remarks by the spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, that Yemen’s missile units have managed to reach high levels of advanced military capability to down hostile fighter jets.
“This is a qualitative and strategic development in the course of the battle, especially that Saree has underlined that 2020 will be the year of missile force and air defense systems under the motto 'Violating the Yemeni airspace will no more be a walk in the park”’ Jafri added.
The top Yemeni military official noted that whenever the leader of Houthi Ansarullah movement Abdul-Malik al-Houthi talks about missile defense systems, whether at the level of the air, ground or naval forces, he means that the armament will enter service and score glorious victories.
Jafri went on to say that the modern missile system that recently shot down the Saudi Tornado aircraft will be unveiled soon.
He then touched down upon Saudi claims that Yemeni forces bear full responsibility for the safety of the pilots who were on board the downed plane, emphasizing that the spokesman for Yemeni Armed Forces has not suggested anything about the detention of the aircraft crew members.
“If it is proven that the pilots are still alive, we will of course engage in negotiations [with Saudi Arabia] according to international principles stipulated in the Geneva Conventions,” Jafri pointed out.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past nearly five years.
The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.