Houthi fighters have withdrawn from the presidential palace in the southern port city of Aden as the Saudi-led coalition targeted rebel positions.
Forces loyal to President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi pushed the Houthis from the palace with coalition support, the official Saudi Press Agency reported without saying where it got the information. Naif al-Bakri, the city’s deputy governor, said the Houthis were forced out of Crater district and remain in control of Khour Maksar, a central district housing foreign consulates.
The fierce fight for Aden shows the challenges Saudi Arabia faces in securing the country and influencing events on the battlefield. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor and the president’s chief ally, assembled the alliance last week to protect Aden as the Houthis threatened to seize the strategic port. Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis fought their way into the center of Aden on Thursday and seized the presidential palace despite a week of coalition air strikes. Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi military officer and spokesman for the coalition, said that coalition forces were “working in collaboration” with those loyal to Hadi to “wipe out” the Houthis.
The week of air strikes across the country has destroyed schools, homes and hospitals. Human rights organizations have condemned the mounting civilian death toll from Saudi-led airstrikes, while aid agencies said it’s difficult to deliver relief in the impoverished country.
The fighting has cut power and water supplies and forced some residents to flee Aden, where six homes and a mosque were destroyed in the Crater district, Nabil al-Quaiti, a resident of the city, said by telephone. There is a shortage of medical supplies and doctors, Al-Khader al-Aswar, director of the health ministry office in Aden, said by telephone.
“The situation is terrible,” al-Quaiti said.
About 519 people have been killed and 1,700 injured during the past two weeks, Valerie Amos, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Thursday.
Saudi Arabia is heading a coalition of 10 Sunni-led nations attacking the Houthis in an effort to force them back into peace talks, and curtail Iranian influence in the country. The spreading of Yemen’s conflict has further destabilized a region that holds more than half the world’s oil.
“There are many potential dangers in military actions in Yemen,” said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington. “There could be a further collapse of Yemen. Outside interference may harden viewpoints inside of the country and magnify tribal and ethnic difference.”
Islamic militants used the instability to seize Mukalla Port in the province of Hadramaut, Najeeb al-Sharafi, an employee at the facility, said by telephone. A day earlier, al-Qaeda militants raided a central bank branch and a prison in Mukalla city, freeing a senior member of the group, the country’s defense minister reported Thursday.