Tensions in Yemen escalated on Sunday after Iran-backed Houthis controlled Taiz province, the gateway to the southern portal city of Aden where President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has established a rival government after fleeing Sana’a.
The fall of Taiz boosts the influence of the Shi’ite group who are already in control of the capital Sana’a and several other strategic areas in central and west Yemen.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s newly-appointed Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said: “We have addressed both the GCC and the UN for the need of [imposing] a no-fly zone and banning the use of warplanes at the airports controlled by the Houthis.”
Yassin called for military intervention by the GCC to contain Houthis’ growing influence in Yemen, warning that the country “is heading towards a civil war.”
He said: “We call on the [GCC’s] Peninsula Shield force to intervene to stop the Iran-backed advance of the Houthis.”
Unidentified warplanes hit Hadi’s presidential palace in Aden and the surrounding area last week. Hadi was reported uninjured.
Hadi’s administration has accused military figures loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis of staging a failed coup attempt, branding them in a statement “Iran’s agents.”
The FM claimed the takeover of the Taiz International Airport was carried out by warplanes loaded with Houthis militants and flown by pilots from Iran’s elite Al-Quds Force.
The fall of airport in Taiz, Yassin maintained, would facilitate the Houthi takeover of other airports following the same tactic.
“If Houthis continue to carry out reconnaissance sorties over the presidential palace in Aden without any resistance, Aden will be shelled,” he said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, local sources said military and security officials “represent the backbone of the fall of Taiz.”
There are indications, the official warned, that Houthis would use Taiz as a staging ground for future attacks on the southern provinces of Lahj and Aden.
On Sunday army forces loyal to Hadi, backed by popular committees, deployed 40 tanks on the outskirts of Aden.
Military reinforcements were reported leaving the Daylami airbase near Sana’a to Taiz over the past three days.
“Most of the personnel in the reinforcement are not soldiers but Houthi militants in army outfit,” the source added.
Arafat Madabish contributed reporting.