Anti-Houthi fighters advance into key city of Taez
SANAA // Forces loyal to Yemen’s exiled government fought their way deep into the central city of Taez on Sunday, largely pushing out rebel Houthi militiamen from the country’s third-largest city.
The advance came as a powerful explosion hit a hospital in Aden, setting off a fire and leading to evacuations of patients. At least three people were wounded.
Hospital and security officials said the blast at the May 22 hospital in Mansoura district forced doctors to take patients to a nearby mosque, while others lay on the ground in public squares.
There was no immediate information on the cause of the explosion.
In Taez, tribal fighters seized a mountaintop citadel and an intelligence headquarters in battles with the Houthis and allied renegade units of the Yemeni army who control two military bases in the city.
Tank battles and air strikes have rocked Taez since April, when the militia forces, backed by air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition, rose up against the Houthis.
The fighting has left much of the city in ruins and its residents pinned down inside their homes.
Residents in the capital, Sanaa, reported the first coalition air strikes on the city for about a month on Sunday, targeting the main military airport and a weapons depot.
The capital was overrun by the Iran-backed Houthis in September. The civil war erupted in late March when the rebels drove southwards towards Aden, where the internationally recognised president, Mansur Abdrabu Hadi, had set up his government after escaping house arrest in Sanaa.
Mr Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia, triggering a military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, to push back the rebels and restore his government.
More than 4,300 people have died in four months of conflict as hunger, disease and suffering have spread in the impoverished country.
However, aid from international agencies and members of the Saudi-led coalition has begun flowing in through Aden after pro-Hadi fighters retook the city from rebels forces last month.
In the latest shipment from the UAE, a ship carrying relief materials including 4,000 tonnes of food and rations arrived in Aden port.
The assistance was ordered by the President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the state news agency Wam reported, and is part of air and sea bridges being run by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation to extend relief to the Yemeni people.
Another shipment of 505 tonnes of relief supplies was sent from Dubai’s Port Rashid to Aden by the Mohammed bin Rashid Charity and Humanitarian Establishment.
Nabil Gargash, member of the board of trustees, said food baskets containing sugar, rice, cooking oil, lentil and pulses would be distributed to needy families.
The recapture of Aden followed a stalemate of almost four months in the battle for the city that was broken with training and weapons deliveries from Gulf states.
Anti-Houth forces have since seized five southern provinces in an advance toward Sanaa.
The United Nations’ envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has been shuttling between the warring sides, including the Houthis’ representatives in neighbouring Oman, in an attempt to secure the rebels withdrawals from cities and spare Yemen’s ancient capital from a devastating final battle.
“There is great progress in the ongoing negotiations in Muscat. The Houthis have agreed to the plan of the international envoy and the response of the Yemeni government is expected tomorrow,” a Yemeni politician said.
* Reuters with additional reporting from Wam and Associated Press
Updated: August 16, 2015 04:00 AM