Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen: Coalition, volunteer forces block Houthi assault on Aden
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Yemeni supporters of the southern separatist Al-Hirak movement stand on a tank in the city of Aden on April 6, 2015, after fierce clashes raged between Houthi rebels and loyalist fighters in southern Yemen, leaving nearly 100 dead in 24 hours. (AFP Photo/Saleh Al-Obeidi)

Yemeni supporters of the southern separatist Al-Hirak movement stand on a tank in the city of Aden on April 6, 2015, after fierce clashes raged between Houthi rebels and loyalist fighters in southern Yemen, leaving nearly 100 dead in 24 hours. (AFP Photo/Saleh Al-Obeidi)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi-led coalition forces targeting the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen, aided by volunteer forces allied to the country’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, have successfully forced the withdrawal of Houthi fighters from southern areas of the country.

In his daily briefing on the Saudi-led offensive, dubbed Operation Decisive Storm, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said on Monday that Houthi militias and forces allied to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh had attempted to take over the port of Aden in the country’s south but had been repelled by volunteer forces loyal to Hadi, who had made their way to the area from other parts of the country.

Reports in recent days have said the Houthi militias have moved to the center of Aden, with some suggesting the rebels have now taken over the southern port city, which forms the last remaining stronghold in the country for embattled President Hadi.

However, Asiri said the help offered by the coalition to Yemeni volunteer forces had helped prevent the Houthis from seizing the city.

“The Houthi rebels were in Aden before Operation Decisive Storm began . . . [but] the logistical support offered by coalition forces [to the volunteer forces] has made a huge difference on the ground and has helped force the [Houthi] rebels to the outskirts of Aden,” Asiri said.

He added that coordination between coalition forces—which in addition to the Kingdom’s include those of the UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain—and Yemeni volunteer forces were continuing on the ground in order to counter the Houthi threat to Aden.

Houthi militias have been moving towards the city from the Shabwa, Al-Hudaydah and the Al-Dalea governorates northeast, northwest and north of Aden, respectively, Asiri said.

However, the spokesman remained bullish regarding coalition forces securing the city. In the last few days Asiri has revealed that Houthi gains in the area were down to coalition forces delaying their airstrikes over Aden in order to clear the area of civilians. Houthi militias were deliberately deploying their forces and storing military supplies in residential areas, he added.

On Monday Asiri said coalition airstrikes would soon be able to fully remove the Houthi threat to the city, as the rebels now had only two choices if they wished to make gains there: either to remain in the bunkers and bases which they have seized from the Yemeni military, or to come out into the city center once again.

In both cases—and now that the relevant civilian areas have been cleared—the Houthi militias will be completely exposed to airstrikes by the coalition, Asiri added.

Delivering aid

In recent days the International Committee of the Red Cross has requested a 24-hour ceasefire of all military operations conducted by the coalition in order to allow its relief workers to deliver aid to Yemenis most affected by the conflict.

Asiri revealed on Sunday that the coalition had agreed to allow Red Cross personnel to enter the country via a scheduled flight but that the international NGO had been unable to fly its personnel out of the country again.

During Monday’s press conference Asiri said the coalition had now begun procedures to evacuate 11 relief workers from the organization and that work was also ongoing to fly out the remaining workers out of the country into safety.

The coalition’s dedicated humanitarian and emergency committee was also working to deliver aid to Yemenis throughout the country, Asiri said, though he added that it was first necessary to take measures to ensure the aid would reach those most in need, and not the Houthi fighters.