Many dead as Houthis take key Aden district

Many dead as Houthis take key Aden district
Yemen's Houthi militia battled its way into Aden's Tawahi district on Wednesday despite Saudi-led airstrikes, strengthening its hold on the city.
3 min read
Saudi airstrikes have targeted Sanaa in the past few days (Anadolu)

Fighting across Yemen killed 120 people on Wednesday, mostly civilians, including at least 40 who were trying to flee the southern port city of Aden by a boat that was struck by Houthi shells, rescue workers and witnesses said. 

The Houthis and ex-army forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have besieged Aden for weeks in an effort to end resistance in the city where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi briefly based his government before fleeing to Saudi Arabia.  

The latest advance by the rebels and their allies  showed they are still combat ready despite Saudi-led airstrikes. 

The rebels took Aden's southwestern Tawahi district, killing the area's military commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Nasser al-Hassani, and seizing the palace, military officials said. 

US forces once used the palace as an operations center and training facility for anti-terrorism forces after rebels captured Sanaa last September, they said. 

Experts and trainers left this spring when clashes began in Aden. 

Gunmen reportedly shot at residents trying to flee Tawahi by boat, while several hundred families managed to flee elsewhere in Aden by sea, said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman of the United Nations secretary-general. 

Security officials said at least 48 civilians were killed when an artillery shell landed near a boat they were attempting to use to flee the neighborhood, with some of them drowning after the boat capsized. 

Meanwhile, in Yemen's far north, coalition airstrikes killed 43 civilians, Houthi sources said, following the death of five Saudi civilians on Tuesday in mortar and rocket fire, the first such deaths in the kingdom since the campaign began on March 26.  

More than 30 airstrikes hit Saada province and there was heavy artillery fire from across the border, local sources said. 

The figure could not be independently verified.  

12 Saudi soldiers and border guards have been killed in the conflict so far. 

The UN human rights office says at least 646 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the airstrikes began March 26.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's government in exile in Saudi Arabia puts the civilian death toll at least 1,000. At least 300,000 people have been displaced. 

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin urged the international community to intervene to rescue civilians he said the Houthis deliberately targeted. 

"We appeal coalition forces to do all they can as soon as possible to salvage Aden," he said, adding that any negotiations over the country's future could not include Saleh or his family members.   

The Saudis are leading a regional coalition against the Houthi-Saleh forces, who are accused of leading a coup against Yemen's president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, currently in exile in Riyadh.

A humanitarian pause

The US secretary of state John Kerry on Wednesday told reporters in Djibouti, where many Yemenis have fled to across the Red Sea, that he the international community was working to deliver aid to Yemen and to discuss the implementation of a “humanitarian pause” with the Saudis.

“I will be there in Saudi Arabia tonight. We will be discussing the nature of the pause and how it might be implemented,” Kerry said. “We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation that is unfolding in Yemen.”

Kerry announced that $68 million would be provided in humanitarian assistance to Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen, and the effective blockade on food and fuel imports, has led to aid agencies warning that the humanitarian situation is “catastrophic”.

A joint statement by the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders (MSF) pointed out that Yemen depends almost completely on imports of food and medication, and that attacks on airports and “harsh restrictions” on importations have made “the daily lives of Yemenis unbearable”.