"Popular Flood Army": A New Houthi Force

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-01-06 10:20 AM UTC



The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group has beenworking tirelessly to mobilize and persuadehundreds of young people to join its recruitment and training centers. The group uses the Israeli war on Gaza as a justification through which it was able to recruit and appeal to those who rejected to side with it and fight for its cause over the seven years of war.


This report highlights how the Houthis established a new army equivalent to their existing army under the pretext of participating in the Flood Battle against Israel.


Systematic attraction of recruits 

The Houthi group has adopted various methods and different tools to attract new fighters based on the latest developments in the war against Israel and the group's participation in supporting the Palestinian cause. The mechanisms of recruitment have changed and evolved since the group began getting involved in the Gaza-Israel war. In the beginning, the Houthis declared their support for the Palestinian resistance, and the group's media at all levels linked the war in Gaza to its ideology,which is linked to their motto, "Death to America, Death to Israel."


With the start of launching missiles against Israel, the Houthis announced the mobilization through public camps in the capital, Sana'a. But when the naval battle began and the groupstarted targeting ships, they opened camps in all the provinces to attract volunteers "to fight against America and Israel," according to their media.


After the formation of a U.S.-led multinationalcoalition to counter the Houthi attacks, camps were opened in the Houthi-controlled countryside and cities, and recruits receivedintellectual and ideological preparation as well as military training.


The deep mobilization

This type of mobilization aims to reach the depths of society to attract new supporters and fighters for the group. It is carried out using young, influential social figures in urban and rural areas. 

Haitham Al-Ward, a young man who lives in the Al-Ziraa neighborhood in the capital city, said that the community leader in his neighborhoodannounced through the WhatsApp group that registration was open for those ready to participate in recruitment, training, and fighting in preparation for the war on Israel. He said many young people expressed their willingness to do so and shared their names to join what the community leader described as the "Popular Army to Defend Gaza."


Exploiting the Palestinian issue

Five years ago, Abdul Salam Yahya was approached by a Houthi figure who tried to persuade him to join the popular committees to fight for the Houthi group. But Yahya refused at the time. Recently, he asked to join the fight against Israel after the breakout of the Gaza-Israel war. He said he is ready today to fight for the cause that the Houthis supported, adding that the Houthis proved their worth, and he isprepared to fight under the command of the Houthi military leadership. 


The Houthi use of the Gaza-Israel war prompted many young men to join the group's recruitment and mobilization camps. When some of those whom the report's author met were asked about what they would do if the Gaza-Israel stopped and whether they will continue to follow the Houthi military leadership, the majority answered that they did not know. At the same time, some said that they would not continue, indicating that they joined the Houthi camps based on religious and humanitarian motives after they saw what was happening in Gaza.


His sympathy for the Palestinian cause drove Yahya to decide to join the Houthi camp. Thousands of Yemenis like Yahya made the same decision. The Houthi group exploited this enthusiasm and sympathy in order to enhance its popularity and attract thousands to its ranks.


Mobilization from the first day

According to Ali Al-Makhdi, a Houthi supervisor in Amran province to the north of Sana'a, the political office of the Houthi movement, with the participation of the local council in the province, announced from the first day of the "Israeli aggression" the opening of registration for public mobilization and conscription. 


According to Al-Makhdi, the number of those registered had reached more than 12 thousand fighters who are ready to participate in any military operation. He added, "Many peoplecame and registered with the community leadersand sheikhs in the province, and only those suitable for that were chosen. There are elderly people, children, and others who were excluded, and the number is likely to increase in the coming days."


The first outcome of consolidating the group's ideology:

On December 2, the Houthis announced the graduation of the first batch of General Mobilization Forces. A group of fightersparticipated in a military parade in Al-Sabeen Square in Sanaa under the title "The Popular Mobilization Combat Parade of the Al-Aqsa Flood Batch."


Alward and Yahya participated in this military parade alongside more than 700 trainees who received military training, lectures, and lessons that contributed to developing their military capabilities.


According to other participants, most of the lectures and lessons aimed to educate young people about how to attract other fighters, and such lectures strengthened the culture and ideology of the Houthi group. The Houthi lecturers told the recruits, "The participation in this battle is a participation in supporting the Palestinian cause, and that the group has been fighting America, Israel, and its agents in the region for 19 years." Some recruits said they were divided into groups, and the method of delivering military lessons and training differedfrom one group to another.


Mobilization and propagationmechanism:


According to a preliminary survey on the mechanism of mobilization and how to register and prepare for the process of attracting fighters, the community leaders in cities and villages, along with the Houthi supervisors, gather residents to join the group in offices or buildings in which they review the capabilities of the military group in confronting America and Israel. After that, the community leaders create WhatsApp groups and add the names of residents in each neighborhood or village. Then, young men are contacted, and whoever agrees to participate in what is known as the "Battle of the Al-Aqsa Flood" will be included in the group of those willing to fight.


Some information checks are conducted on everyone, and whoever receives a special recommendation is immediately included in the initial training centers and headquarters. Those who do not receive a recommendation areincluded in the intellectual and cultural rehabilitation camp.


According to preliminary calculation, the number of those who were approved in the first phase may exceed five thousand in the provinces of Sana'a, Amran, and Dhamar, which means the number of volunteer fighters in all the provinces controlled by the Houthis may reach ten thousand who will engage in military operations under the command of the Houthi group. 


The group focuses on teenagers and youth between 15 and 30 years old. The group completed the training for 1,500 fighters in the capital, Sanaa, who received military training after intellectual and cultural lectures that consolidated the group's doctrine.


Mobilization and propagation stages

In early January, the Houthi group launched the third phase of its mobilization strategy for what it calls the "Battle of the Al-Aqsa Flood."


Under this strategy, many changes were made, including working on mobilization and propagation in every geographical area. With the new strategy, the Houthi supervisors in the provinces and government institutions were given another title: mobilization and propagation officials. The operations of such officials were expanded in urban and rural areas.


The Third stage of Popular Mobilization included two matters, quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative aspect of this stage is magnifying the number of the "Popular FloodArmy" to about fifteen thousand volunteers.


As for the qualitative aspect, the group subjected the young men to an intellectual program and then selected those who believed in the Houthi ideology for qualitative military training.


Some of those whom the report's author contacted confirmed that their decision to join the Houthi group happened after the Israeli aggression on Gaza and after the supportive positions of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group for Gaza. They confessed that they are now ready to participate in any fighting or war that the Houthi group may announce at any time inside or outside Yemen.


Ultimately, the Gaza-Israel war turned into a battle of mobilization and recruitment for the Houthi group in Yemen, which lost most of its fighters in previous battles over the past years. The group suffered from a significant decline in its popularity, especially after its attack on Marib in recent years, where there are two million displaced people who fled from Houthi-controlled cities and villages.