ADEN: Yemen’s southern separatists took control of all government military camps in Aden yesterday, officials said, after four days of clashes between nominal allies who have turned on each other, complicating UN efforts to end the four-year war. The separatists also surrounded the all-but empty presidential palace of the internationally recognized government that is temporarily based in the port city, a government official and another local official told Reuters.
At least eight civilians were killed on Friday in fighting between the separatists and government forces, according to medical sources. Fighting resumed early yesterday but has since abated, residents said. The combatants are both part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned armed Houthi movement in Yemen since March 2015, indicating a rift within the alliance. The war has killed tens of thousands and pushed the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of famine.
“It is all over, the (Southern Transitional Council) forces are in control of all the military camps,” an official in President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government told Reuters. He said the two sides had agreed the separatist forces would not try to seize the palace, located in the predominantly residential Crater district, while government forces would refrain from attacking them. The separatists also took over the house of Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Mayssari after he was evacuated from his residence with the help of coalition forces, government officials said. Hadi is based in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
There was no immediate comment from the Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia that intervened in Yemen after the Houthis ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014. Alliance member the United Arab Emirates, which has armed and trained thousands of southern separatist fighters, earlier called for calm and for the two sides to focus on opposing the Houthis. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called on UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who is trying to de-escalate tensions across Yemen, “to deploy efforts and exert pressure” to that purpose.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said the battles had trapped civilians in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water. The aid group said prolonged fighting in Aden, a gateway for commercial and aid supplies, could impact efforts to tackle the humanitarian crisis gripping the rest of the country. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the parties to end hostilities and engage in “inclusive dialogue”.
The clashes began on Wednesday after the separatists accused an Islamist party allied to Hadi of complicity in a missile attack on a military parade in Aden, one of three separate attacks that targeted southern forces. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the parade attack that killed a senior southern commander. Despite their alliance, the separatists and Hadi’s government have rival agendas for Yemen’s future.