Anti-Houthi fighters continue advance in Yemen's Aden

Anti-Houthi fighters continue advance in Yemen's Aden
Hadi spokesman Rajeh Badi tells al-Araby al-Jadeed that 'Popular Resistance' fighters are willing to hand over Houthi-Saleh POWs to the Red Cross.
3 min read
15 July, 2015
Aden's airport was taken by the Houthis in March [AFP].

Southern Yemeni fighters allied to the country's exiled president seized more ground in second city Aden on Wednesday after recapturing the airport held by Houthi rebels for four months, military sources said.

The offensive, dubbed Operation Golden Arrow, is the first major advance by the fighters, known alternatively as the 'Popular Resistance' or the "Southern Resistance', since the Houthis, along with allied Yemeni army units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, entered the port city in March, forcing President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi into exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Popular Resistance are fighting alongside Yemeni army units still loyal to Hadi.

Hadi's spokesman in Riyadh, Rajih Badi, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that his government was calling on the Red Cross to take prisoners of war captured by the Popular Resistance.

"The prisoners are being treated well," Badi said. "The Red Cross must officially receive the prisoners from the resistance."

Despite an appeal from US President Barack Obama to King Salman of Saudi Arabia for an urgent end to the fighting, Saudi-led warplanes carried out six raids on rebel positions before dawn, witnesses and military sources said.

The local fighters in Aden, many of whom are separatists calling for the secession of the former South Yemen, recaptured the provincial government headquarters in the Mualla district by Aden's main commercial port, militia spokesman Ali al-Ahmadi told AFP.

They also advanced in the Crater district of the city, he added.

On Tuesday, the militia, backed by reinforcements freshly trained and equipped in Saudi Arabia, retook the airport and much of the surrounding Khormaksar diplomatic district.

"After the recapture of Khormaksar, there was a collapse in the ranks of the Huthis and their allies," renegade troops loyal to Hadi's predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmadi said.

Khormaksar lies on the entrance to the peninsula where most of the city of Aden is situated, and its capture effectively cuts off the remaining Houthi-Saleh fighters from any reinforcements.

The Houthis had been able to take Aden airport after the defection of the 39th Armoured Brigade, loyal to Saleh, on March 25.

Much of Aden has been reduced to rubble by four months of ferocious fighting.

The retreating Houthi-Saleh forces pounded residential districts in the north and east of Aden with Katyusha multiple rocket launchers, provincial officials said.

At least 12 civilians were killed and 105 wounded, Aden health department chief Al-Khader Laswar told AFP.

Eight anti-Houthi militiamen were killed and 30 wounded in the fighting, Laswar added.

There was no immediate word on Houthi-Saleh losses.

The fighting comes after the failure of a UN-declared truce that was to have taken effect just before midnight on Friday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon had announced a six-day ceasefire to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief supplies.

Ban was "very much disappointed" by the failure of the truce, his spokesman said.

Obama spoke by telephone with the Saudi king on Tuesday, the White House said.

The two leaders "spoke about the urgency of stopping the fighting in Yemen and the importance of ensuring that assistance can reach Yemenis on all sides of the conflict".

The United Nations has declared Yemen a level-3 humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale.

More than 21.1 million people -- over 80 percent of Yemen's population -- need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages, while access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people.