Houthi rebels driven out of key base
ADEN // Forces loyal to the exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi recaptured Yemen’s largest military air base on Monday in another defeat for Houthi rebels.
Dozens of rebels were killed or captured in the battle for Al Anad base, 60 kilometres from Aden, and hundreds fled.
“The national army and the popular resistance have complete control of the base,” said operation commander Brig Gen Fadel Hassan.
The Hadi loyalists supported by an Arab coalition including the UAE continue to push north after driving the Houthis out of Aden last month.
The recapture of Al Anad opens up the road north to the city of Taez, where Iranian-backed Houthis and renegade military units loyal to the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been locked in combat with local fighters who support Mr Hadi and his internationally recognised government.
Gen Hassan said his force would march on to complete the liberation of the provinces of Lahej and Abyan.
The assault on Al Anad began after new weapons, including armoured vehicles supplied by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, arrived to reinforce fighters.
Dozens of new armoured vehicles in two separate columns headed towards the base on Monday morning.
Mr Hadi remains in Saudi Arabia, where he fled in March when the Houthis first threatened Aden, but other ministers and officials have returned to Aden to begin restoring stability now that the rebels have gone.
They include the vice president and prime minister Khaled Bahah, who visited the UAE yesterday for talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Mr Bahah also conveyed the condolences of Mr Hadi to the families of Emirati soldiers who have died during Operation Restoring Hope in Yemen.
After four months of heavy fighting, humanitarian aid has finally started to trickle in to Aden, but aid workers say it is not nearly enough.
The conflict has left up to 4,000 dead since March, 80 per cent of the population in need of aid and more than 10 million people struggling to obtain food and water, according to the United Nations.
The city is deeply scarred, with gutted buildings, broken sewage pipes and a lack of water and electricity.
As the streets start to be cleared of debris, residents are wandering out in search of basic supplies.
Dragging plastic jerry cans, Abel Rahman Saleh was heading to a well in the central Crater neighbourhood in the hope of finding water.
“We’re living through a real disaster, without water, electricity or salaries,” he said. “I wasn’t able to leave my neighbourhood during the fighting because I had nowhere else to go.” Awad Nasser, another Crater resident who sought shelter in the suburban Sheikh Othman neighbourhood during the fighting, returned home to find nothing but wasteland.
“There’s nothing left, absolutely nothing,” he said, lamenting the lack of any public assistance.
The reopening of Aden airport after the Houthis were driven out last month allowed emergency aid to be flown in from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and help has also arrived by sea.
But aid workers say much more is needed. “The aid is not enough to meet the needs. It only serves to lessen the disaster we are living through,” said Adnan Al Kaf, spokesman for a humanitarian association distributing aid in the Sheikh Othman district, with up to 15,000 food packages to be handed out per day.
Three ships chartered by the UN’s World Food Programme have been able to unload 7,000 tons of humanitarian aid in Aden since July 21, said Nasser Bajanoub, head of the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity, a UN partner.
“Two days ago, we started food distribution to 7,000 families and we intend to reach 26,000 families,” he said.
“We haven’t encountered any particular difficulties for our operations in Aden, but we haven’t managed to gain access to people in the other southern provinces,” he said.
* Reuters, Wam and Agence France-Presse
Updated: August 3, 2015 04:00 AM