Yemen's Aden gets first commercial flight in over four months

Reuters , Thursday 6 Aug 2015

A commercial flight touched down in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Thursday for the first time since conflict shut the city's airport more than four months ago, airport officials said.

"At around 1 P.M. local time, a Yemenia Airways plane arrived, carrying 150 citizens who had fled the city by boat to Djibouti back home, in the first commercial flight to Aden in over four months," Muneef al-Zuhairi, a militia commander and deputy director of the airport told Reuters.

Gulf Arab countries have backed with air strikes and weapons deliveries a northward advance by fighters from southern Yemen fighters. They are trying to push back the Iranian-allied Houthi group, which took over the capital, Sanaa, in September.

Heavy fighting had rendered Aden's airport and sea ports mostly inaccessible since the Houthis pushed into the city on March 26, triggering the Arab military intervention, an exodus of refugees and severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

However, the city was seized by fighters opposed to the Houthis last month, and the country's exiled government in Saudi Arabia says it will use it as a base to run the country.

Also on Thursday, a Red Cross plane landed in Aden carrying 30 southern fighters who had been detained on the battlefield and moved to Sanaa, al-Zuhairi said. They will be exchanged for seven Houthi military commanders held in Aden.

It was the first prisoner exchange involving an international organization and may signal progress toward ending the conflict which has killed more than 4,000 people.

Anti-Houthi forces continued to make gains on Thursday, fully surrounding the provincial capital of Lahej province, Zinjibar, northeast of Aden and massing their forces before an expected push toward the central city of Taiz.

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