Pro-govt forces vie to secure Yemen's Aden

AFP , Sunday 19 Jul 2015

Military vehicles of the Southern Resistance fighters move during clashes with Houthi fighters on a street in Yemen's southern port city of Aden July 17, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Yemeni pro-government forces on Sunday sought to tighten their control of Aden as Iran-backed rebels mounted resistance in some districts, two days after the regime declared the city "liberated".

Backed by air support from Saudi-led warplanes and troops freshly trained in the kingdom, forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have managed wrest back control of most of the port city.

Two ministers of the exiled government returned to Aden this weekend, shortly after Prime Minister Khaled Bahah heralded its "liberation", four months after the Shia Houthi rebels entered the city.

On Sunday, fighters from the pro-Hadi Popular Resistance advanced towards the rebel-held district of Al-Tawahi, a military source said.

The neighbourhood is home to Aden's presidential residence, where Hadi had taken refuge when he escaped house arrest under the rebels in Sanaa in February, before being forced to flee for Saudi Arabia.

Swathes of the southern city have been reduced to rubble by the four months of ferocious fighting.

Warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition have kept up the air campaign launched in March in support of Hadi and against the Huthis and renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Around 15 air strikes targeted rebel positions in Al-Tawahi and on the northern outskirts of the city where rebels had brought reinforcements, military sources and witnesses said.

Fighting also went on in the district of Crater where some rebels remain holed up, according to pro-Hadi fighters.

Nine rebels were killed in a raid on Khormaksar neighbourhood, witnesses said.

The interior and transportation ministers headed a delegation of the exiled government that landed in Aden on Friday night. They took part in a meeting on Saturday aimed at securing the city.

The government-run news agency said the meeting looked into reopening the airport and the port to allow the flow of much-needed aid, as well as the restoration of electricity and water.

Loyalist forces had secured Aden airport shortly after they launched an assault on Tuesday against the rebels dubbed "Operation Golden Arrow".

Some displaced residents of Aden returned to assess the damage to their houses and neighbourhoods.

"There is no life! No hospitals, no electricity, nor water. If it was not for the two wells of the neighbourhood, people would have died of thirst," said Crater resident Moatez al-Mayssuri.

A rebel spokesman dismissed the government's claims on Saturday that it had seized control of Aden as "psychological warfare and an attempt to improve the crushed morale" of loyalist fighters.

On Sunday, a spokesman of the Huthis' Ansarullah movement said the rebels had "regained the lead and repelled several attacks by the mercenaries".

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

After weeks of shuttle diplomacy between the two sides, it announced a humanitarian truce last weekend to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief supplies, but the ceasefire failed to take hold.

More than 21.1 million people -- over 80 percent of Yemen's population -- need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages.

More than 3,200 people have been killed in the fighting -- many of them civilians, the UN says.

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