ADEN (Yemen) Yemeni pro-government forces recaptured the presidential palace in Aden Wednesday and a Saudi military plane landed in the war-scarred southern city following recent territorial losses by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The arrival of reinforcements, freshly trained and heavily armed by the Saudi-led coalition, has helped forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to retake most of Aden after four months of fierce fighting.
Thirty rebels were killed in the battle for the Al-Maashiq hilltop palace, where Hadi had taken refuge in March, a source in the pro-government Popular Resistance militia said.
Meanwhile, a Saudi naval commander paid a brief surprise visit to Aden, a Yemeni military official said, arriving on the first aircraft to land at the airport after four months of fighting forced its closure.
“The arrival of this aircraft bearing military aid is the beginning of an airlift of aid and humanitarian supplies between Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” the Yemeni official quoted the Saudi navy chief as saying.
Transport Minister Badr Basalma said: “This is the beginning of operations at the airport.” Saudi Col. Ali Abu Dahesh, who flew in on the military plane, said an “air link with Yemen will be opened to deliver relief supplies.”
Basalma told journalists on Monday that a UAE technical team had arrived to repair the tower and passenger terminal at Aden international airport, heavily damaged in clashes.
“The freshly trained troops, equipped with modern weapons, triggered this shift,” Yemeni analyst Majed Al-Mathhadi said.
A force of about 1,500 former southern Yemeni soldiers have arrived in the city after being trained in Saudi Arabia, he said, adding that the heavy weapons they brought with them had made a huge difference.
“The light weapons that the (southern Popular) Resistance had were not enough to make a change on the ground… They needed heavy weapons like the ones that were sent,” he said. Footage from Aden has shown pro-Hadi forces using new armored vehicles with mounted machine guns.