Vice-president of Yemen declares Aden ‘liberation’

City key to getting control of country from rebels, says exiled president

Anti-Houthi  fighters  prepare to go to the frontline  in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

Anti-Houthi fighters prepare to go to the frontline in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

 

From exile in Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s vice president Khaled Bahah yesterday declared the “liberation” of Aden after four months of deadly and destructive fighting between Shia Houthi rebels and local Sunni anti-Houthi and pro-government fighters.

Several ministers and intelligence chiefs had returned to Aden on Thursday despite continuing clashes in the west of the city.

“The [Yemeni] government announced the liberation of Aden province on the first day of Eid al-Fitr which falls on July 17th,” Mr. Bahah stated, referring to the feast that ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. “We will work to restore life in Aden and all the liberated cities [and] restore water and electricity.”

Yemen’s exiled president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi also congratulated Yemenis on the feast and the “victories” won by anti-Houthi forces. Mr Hadi said the internationally-recognised Yemeni government was aware of the “suffering of the people” and was seeking to reduce their distress.

“Aden will be the key to salvation for our people and our cause. From Aden, we will regain Yemen, ” he said.

The re-capture of Aden appears to mark a change in the fortunes of the previously stalled Saudi-led offensive involving devastating aerial assaults on the Houthi stronghold in the north, Sana’a, the wide belt of territory between Sana’a and the port city of Aden, and Aden itself.

The shift seems to have been effected by the deployment of Saudi-trained Yemeni fighters armed with light and heavy weapons, matching arms taken by Houthis from Yemeni military arsenals.

Anti-Houthi militiamen have, reportedly, taken over the Crater district, Aden’s commercial quarter where the presidential palace is located. Driven from Sana’a to Aden last February, Mr Hadi and his ministers fled Aden in March. The advances of anti-Houthi forces began last week with the capture of Aden’s air and sea ports.

The Saudi-led drive against the Houthis did not pause last Friday after a six-day UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire came into effect. Consequently, aid agencies were unable to land and deliver urgently needed water, food, and fuel to Yemenis, an estimated 80 per cent of whom are in desperate need.

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman yesterday met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and other senior officials of the Palestinian group that rules Gaza. Since the encounter was also attended by crown prince Mohamed bin Naef and defence minister Mohamed bin Salman, the king’s son and deputy crown prince, the event seems to signal reconciliation between the Saudis and Hamas and could result in Saudi financial aid to Gaza, devastated by last summer’s war between Hamas and Israel.

The aim of the Saudi triumvirate could be winning the “Hamas card” in the regional game played by Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, considered to be held by Iran and Qatar, which have provided Hamas with funds over the past few years. Saudi acquisition could prompt pressure on the West Bank Palestinian Authority to come to terms with Hamas and a unity government, giving Riyadh the “Palestinian card” Arab regimes covet.