ADEN – Yemeni rebels made new gains in the battleground southern city Aden on Sunday as a Saudi-led coalition trying to halt their advance faced growing calls for a humanitarian pause in air strikes.
The Red Cross has appealed for an immediate truce to allow families to seek water, food and medical assistance, describing the situation as “dire”.
Russia presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Saturday calling for a humanitarian pause in the Saudi-led air war against the Houthi rebels, now in its 11th day.
The coalition kept up its night-time raids against rebel positions and arms depots, particularly around the capital Sanaa and Saada, the northern stronghold of the Houthi rebels.
In the main southern city Aden, the rebels advanced into the central district of Mualla, capturing the provincial government headquarters, a local official said.
They bombarded residential areas, setting fire to several buildings and damaging others, witnesses said.
At least five civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the latest clashes, according to the city’s health department director Al Kheder Lassouar.
“There are children among the wounded,” he said.
Residents said dozens of families had fled their homes in the port city, the heart of which sits on an extinct volcano jutting out into the sea.
The rebel forces advanced to near the port of Mualla, which is defended by militiamen of “popular committees” loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
“Snipers, who took position on the roofs of provincial government buildings, targeted passers-by and members of the popular committees,” pro-Hadi fighter Khalid Bashaea said.
The rebels also fired mortar rounds at an Aden television station loyal to Hadi, forcing it off the air.
Hospitals treating the wounded are running short of medicines and the streets of Aden are strewn with bodies, the Red Cross said, calling for a 24-hour ceasefire.
“Our relief supplies and surgical personnel must be allowed to enter the country and safely reach the worst-affected places to provide help,” said Robert Mardin, head of Middle East operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“Otherwise, put starkly, many more people will die. For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days.”
The Saudi-led military coalition, which comprises four other Gulf countries as well as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, said aid would be allowed into the country when conditions are right.
Violence has escalated sharply in the country since the coalition launched Operation Decisive Storm against the rebels on March 26.
Hadi took refuge in Aden in February after the Houthis seized power in the capital Sanaa, but left for Saudi Arabia last month as they advanced on the city.
The rebels seized his presidential palace in Aden on Thursday but, aided by air strikes and arms drops, Hadi loyalists drove the rebels out of the hilltop complex the following day.
There were also clashes on Sunday in the rebel-held southern town of Loder, in Abyan province, where 24 people, including 21 militiamen, were reported killed.
The violence has raised fears that impoverished Yemen could be torn apart.
Russia’s request to halt the air strikes came as Gulf countries were pushing for a separate UN resolution that would impose an arms embargo and sanctions on the Houthis.
That draft text has come up against strong opposition from Moscow, which proposed amendments to apply the arms embargo to the entire country and to limit sanctions.
A report said that Saudi Arabia will raze 96 deserted border villages to prevent their use by infiltrators from Yemen.
Ten villages have already been demolished since a Saudi-led military coalition began air strikes on March 26, the Saudi-owned Al Hayat newspaper reported.
It cited the border guard chief in the area, Hassan Aqili, as saying that the move was to prevent the empty houses from turning into “a safe haven for traffickers and infiltrators”.
The 15,000 inhabitants were resettled following a 2009-2010 conflict that saw Huthi rebels cross into Saudi Arabia from their stronghold in northern Yemen.
Algeria evacuated 160 of its citizens from Yemen on Saturday, national news agency APS reported.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika called for the operation after monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Yemen in recent days, foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra said.
APS added that 40 Tunisians, 15 Mauritians, eight Libyans, three Moroccans and a Palestinian were also flown out of the capital, Sanaa, to Cairo on a plane provided by Algerian national carrier Air Algerie. — timesofoman.com