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Thursday , August 13 2020

Aden attack said to expose split in anti-Houthi coalition

Airport closure ‘grave’ risk

Houthi rebel fighters fire their weapons in the air as they take off to a battlefront following a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis, who drove out the internationally recognized government. Months later, in March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched its air campaign to prevent the rebels from overrunning the country’s south. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

ADEN, Aug 6, (Agencies): Yemen’s southern separatists on Tuesday accused an Islamist party of complicity in last week’s deadly attack on Aden, the seat of government, exposing rifts in the Saudi-backed coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The separatists and Islamist party are united in their wider war on the Houthis, but have rival agendas for Yemen, and frictions between them over Thursday’s attack could destabilise the southern port city that is the coalition’s sole stronghold. The missile strike killed 36 Security Belt soldiers, who are part of the southern separatists, at a military parade. It was claimed by the Houthis, whom the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has battled since 2015.

The Aden violence, along with an escalation in Houthi missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities, has complicated UN peace efforts to end a four-year war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) said the attack aimed to give Islamist party Islah an upper hand in Aden. “This attack was planned to make all of Aden fall into the hands of Islah,” STC Vice-President Hani Ali Brik said.

Islah, an important ally of internationally recognised President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is tolerated by Saudi Arabia but viewed with suspicion by the UAE. “Therefore, do not blame our people if they take to the streets to demand the removal of this government from southern lands,” the STC vicepresident added at a press conference.

There was no immediate comment from Islah or Hadi’s government, nor was there any response in Islah-affiliated media. Islah is viewed by the UAE as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated a terrorist group by Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

The attack was the worst violence to hit Aden, a coalition stronghold, since southern separatists clashed with Hadi’s government in 2017 in a power struggle. Saudi and Yemeni officials have publicly accused Iran of being behind the attack and a separate one in Aden that day claimed by militant group Islamic State.

Tehran denies any involvement in Yemen. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen against the Houthis after they ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in the north in 2014. The government is now based in Aden while the Houthis control most other urban centres. The war has revived old strains between north and south Yemen, formerly separate countries that united into a single state in 1990 under slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Saudi-led coalition’s closure of the airport in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, has prevented thousands of sick civilians from traveling abroad for urgent medical treatment, two international aid groups said in a joint statement. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE, the Sanaa airport’s three-year closure has amounted to a “death sentence” for many sick Yemenis.

The two groups appealed late Monday on Yemen’s warring parties to come to an agreement to reopen the airport for commercial fl ights to “alleviate humanitarian suffering caused by the closure.” “As if bullets, bombs and cholera did not kill enough people, the airport closure is condemning thousands more to a premature death,” said Mohammed Abdi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s director in Yemen.

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