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Adel al-Ahmadi

Yemen's Houthis advance towards Aden

Date of publication: 24 March, 2015

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Anti-government forces advance towards President Hadi's refuge of Aden, as Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, hints at military intervention.

Anti-government forces advanced towards President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's refuge of Aden in southern Yemen on Tuesday, fighting fierce battles with loyalist forces in which at least 30 people were killed.

The Houthi militia, backed by troops allied to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, clashed with forces loyal to the president in at least two southern provinces as they pushed on Aden.

     The Houthi coup threatens the security and stability of Yemen, the region and the world.

- Saud al-Faisal

Local sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the situation in the city had become "severely strained" after the arrival of reinforcements dressed in military uniform, in preparation for a confrontation with Hadi supporters.

The militiamen have seized control of large parts of Yemen and in recent days have been moving toward Aden, where Hadi fled after escaping house arrest in the capital Sanaa last month.

In another southern city, Taiz, Houthi militiamen opened fire on demonstrators killing five protesters and wounding 80 others, a local official and medics said.

The militia attacked the demonstrators as they gathered for the third consecutive day to protest the militia's arrival in Taiz, after the Houthis sent thousands of troops south from the capital Sanaa.


Saudi support

Yemen, a long-time US ally which borders Saudi Arabia, is increasingly divided between a north controlled by the Houthis, allegedly backed by Iran, and a south dominated by Hadi supporters.

The UN Security Council, Western countries and Gulf Arab monarchies have backed Hadi as the country's legitimate ruler and his foreign minister called on Monday for a Gulf intervention to confront the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has said his country is ready to take "the necessary measures" to tackle the Houthi takeover of Yemen.

At a Riyadh news conference, Saud al-Faisal said that the "Houthi coup threatens the security and stability of Yemen, the region and the world. If the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures to protect the region."

However, he also added that "all sides" in Yemen were invited to talks, planned to take place this month in Riyadh.

Yemen's acting foreign minister, Riad Yassin, said the president had requested that the GCC's task force be deployed to protect the country's vital installations, and called for a no-fly zone over Houthi-held territory.

"We have called on the UN and the international community to impose a no-fly zone and bar the use of military aircraft at airports under Houthi control," Yassin said.

"The Houthis used aircraft to attack the presidential palace, and yesterday, they seized the airport in Taiz using transport planes carrying Houthi troops.

He claimed the planes were piloted "by personnel from Iran's Revolutionary Guards" but provided no evidence.

Iran has been accused of supporting the Houthis by Hadi and Riyadh, although both Tehran and the rebels deny this.

Scorched earth

Yassin called on Iran to cease their support for the Houthis and loyalists of Yemen's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh was overthrown in a popular revolt in 2012 but still commands support in some areas of the military, and appears to have recently allied himself with the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia's defence minister, Mohammad bin Salman, recently visited the Saudi city of Jizan, which lies close to the border of Yemen.

Salman discussed ways to strengthen the military units on the border and inspected a base that reportedly houses Saudi Arabia's rapid intervention force.

With additional reporting by AFP.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.

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