Houthis, Saudi-Led Alliance Fight for Aden Air Base

Houthis, Saudi-Led Alliance  Fight for Aden Air BaseHouthis, Saudi-Led Alliance  Fight for Aden Air Base

Yemeni forces allied with a Saudi-led coalition fought the Houthis for control of the country’s largest air base north of Aden on Sunday, local residents said.

The Al-Anad base, 50 km from the major southern port city, has been in control of Houthi forces for much of a four-month-old civil war and is seen as a strategic location commanding the approaches to Aden, Reuters reported.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries allied with southern secessionist fighters reportedly retook parts of Aden last week in the first significant ground victory in their campaign to end Houthi control over much of Yemen and restore fugitive president Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Fighting over the air base escalated only hours before a humanitarian truce declared by the coalition was expected to take effect midnight Monday.

The pause, announced unilaterally by the coalition, is the third attempt in four months to stop hostilities and allow much-needed aid delivery to war-torn Yemen.

A five-day ceasefire in May was interrupted repeatedly by Saudi warplanes bombing the country along with clashes on the ground, and a United Nations-brokered pause earlier this month was violated quickly and never took hold.

Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh took control of Aden at the outset of the conflict, prompting Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, an ally of the United States.

More than 3,500 have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance began bombing Yemen. Aden has suffered especially, with severe shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

The port city and other southern provinces have been largely inaccessible to UN food aid, and about 13 million people, over half the population, are thought to be in dire need of food.

 Coalition Continues Bombing

Coalition warplanes carried out raids near Sana’a late on Saturday and shortly after dawn on Sunday, residents reported, adding that one of the targets included the military base near the city.

Ali Ahmedi, a spokesman for anti-Houthi forces in Aden, said fighting was going on at the Al-Anad base.

Residents said forces of the so-called Southern Resistance, an armed group allied with the coalition, had taken Sabr, a northern district of Aden. The residents reported several fighters from both sides had been killed.

Local combatants in Aden have been supported by coalition airstrikes for nearly four months, but often fly the flag of a southern Yemen separatist movement rather than voicing loyalty to Hadi’s exiled government.

The Saudi-led coalition began its campaign on March 26, bidding to reverse months of advances by the Houthis after they moved from their northern stronghold last year, capturing the capital Sana’a and pushing south to Aden.

 Setback for Houthis

A senior Houthi commander, Abdul-Khaliq al-Houthi, was reportedly captured on Saturday by the Southern Resistance, the secessionist movement said on its official Twitter account, Reuters said in a report.

The message said without elaborating how al-Houthi was captured. Houthi officials could not immediately be contacted for comment. Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Yemenis say al-Houthi, a brother of Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, played an important role in the Houthis’ advance in Sana’a last year.