Red Cross says situation ‘catastrophic’ in Yemen’s Aden
ADEN // The Red Cross warned on Tuesday of a “catastrophic” situation in Yemen’s main southern city Aden, as loyalist forces battled rebels in the streets backed by shelling by Saudi-led coalition warships.
The Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels and their allies made a new push on a port in the central Mualla district of the city but were forced back by militia loyal to fugitive president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, witnesses said.
Naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, which has carried out nearly two weeks of airstrikes in support of Mr Hadi, shelled rebel positions across the city, they added.
A draft resolution calling on the Houthis to lay down arms, surrender seized territory and weaponry, and release their prisoners will be put to the vote in the Security Council on Wednesday.
The resolution was submitted by the GCC last week, all of whose members except Oman are participating in the Saudi-led military coalition to push back the rebels and restore Yemen’s political transition under Mr Hadi.
Spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, Marie Claire Feghali, said the humanitarian situation across the country was “very difficult ... [with] naval, air and ground routes cut off”.
She described the situation in Aden as “catastrophic to say the least”.
“The war in Aden is on every street, in every corner ... many are unable to escape,” she said.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the situation was “worsening by the day”.
MSF medics in Aden had “not received large numbers of casualties over the past few days ... due to the difficulties faced in trying to reach a hospital”, said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the organisation’s Yemen representative.
“Our priority is to find a way to send a supporting medical team,” Ms Ingres said, adding a team was waiting in Djibouti “for a green light from the coalition”.
The Red Cross hopes to deliver to Sanaa on Wednesday 16 tonnes of medical aid on a plane loaded in Jordan. Another plane carrying 32 tonnes of aid could follow on Thursday.
An initial Red Cross flight carrying medical staff landed in Sanaa on Monday. “First @ICRC flight reached Sanaa. More to come by air and sea when clearances received to bring urgently needed medical supplies,” Dominik Stillhart, director of operations at the Red Cross, posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
At least eight Houthis were killed on Tuesday when coalition warplanes struck a position north of Aden, a military source said.
Also on Tuesday, Saudi-led coalition jets bombed a military installation in the southern Ibb province, as local tribes battled Shiite rebels and their allies in the area, seizing a makeshift camp and weapons, Yemeni military officials said.
Residents say the camp was close to a school. The rebel television station, Al Masirah, said three children were killed in the airstrike.
About 50km south of the camp, local tribes battled with Houthis who had set up a makeshift camp in the area, driving the rebels away and seizing their weapons, a local resident said.
A medical volunteer in the Maytam district in Ibb said the airstrike on a Republican Guards’ camp wounded at least 25 troops. The Guards’ unit is loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh who is allied with the Shiite rebels in their power grab in Yemen.
Civilians have paid a heavy toll for the violence that mushroomed from an internal power struggle into a regional war, drawing in neighboring Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Other raids targeted air defence posts in the northeast of the central Taez province.
Overnight fighting in Aden left at least 10 people dead. Nationwide, more than 540 people have been killed and 1,700 wounded since March 19, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
The UN’s children agency said at least 74 children had been killed since the coalition strikes began on March 26, adding it believed the real figure to be much higher.
More than 100,000 people had been displaced.
The evacuation of foreigners continued with three Indian planes carrying 604 passengers, including some Yemenis, from Sanaa to Djibouti, an airport official said.
Pakistan’s navy also said it evacuated about 100 nationals and around 30 foreigners.
Islamabad said it would take its time deciding whether to accept a Saudi request to join the coalition, which so far consists of nine Arab countries including the UAE.
Neighbouring Iran has strongly criticised the intervention and rejected its accusations of arming the Shiite rebels.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan was “not in a hurry” to decide and that diplomatic efforts were under way involving Turkey and Iran that he expected to quickly bear fruit. Overnight, Saudi-led warplanes struck the rebel-held Al Anad air base north of Aden, a pro-Hadi general said.
Further east, Al Qaeda’s Yemen franchise – seen by the US as the militant network’s most dangerous – sought to tighten its grip on Hadramawt province.
Residents reported loud explosions as the extremists attacked an army base in the provincial capital Mukalla, much of which they captured last week.
Observers have warned Al Qaeda could exploit the fighting between Mr Hadi’s supporters and opponents to expand its control following the withdrawal of US troops overseeing a longstanding drone war against it.
* Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Wam
Updated: April 7, 2015 04:00 AM