Saudi coalition moves against separatists

ADEN, August 11 

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Aden on Sunday in support of the Yemeni government after southern separatists effectively took over the port city, fracturing the alliance that had been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The infighting, which broke out on August 8 to control the port city which serves as temporary seat of Yemen’s Saudi-backed, internationally-recognised government, has killed 40 persons and injured 260, the United Nations said.

“It is heart-breaking that during Eid al-Adha (the Muslim holiday) families are mourning the death of their loved ones instead of celebrating together in peace,” said Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

“Our main concern right now is to dispatch medical teams to rescue the injured,” she said in a statement on Sunday. “We are also very worried by reports that civilians trapped in their homes are running out of food and water.”  The Saudi-led, Sunni Muslim coalition said it attacked an area that posed a “direct threat” to the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, without providing details.

In a sign of support for Yemen’s beleaguered president, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman met Hadi on Sunday in the Mecca region, on the sidelines of the haj pilgrimage, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. The meeting “discussed efforts to achieve security and stability” in Yemen, it said.

A local official said the coalition had targeted separatist forces surrounding the nearly empty presidential palace in the Crater district. Hadi is based in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

“This is only the first operation and will be followed by others ... the Southern Transitional Council (STC) still has a chance to withdraw,” Saudi state TV quoted it as saying.

Several hours after the coalition announcement, there was no indication that STC forces were preparing to leave government military camps they seized on Saturday.

STC Vice-President Hani Ali Brik, writing on Twitter to mark Eid al-Adha, that began on Sunday, said while the Council remained committed to the coalition it would “not negotiate under duress”. It had earlier agreed to a truce.

The United Arab Emirates-backed separatists, who want to split with the north, have a rival agenda to Hadi’s government over the future of Yemen, but have been a key part of the coalition that intervened in the Arabian Peninsula nation in 2015 against the Houthis after the group ousted Hadi from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The violence in the port city that handles some commercial imports and aid complicates UN efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the country to the brink of famine. Residents said clashes ceased on Saturday night.

Coalition member the UAE, which has armed and trained thousands of southern separatists, urged calm. — Reuters


Saudi-UAE coalition in tatters, conflict pushes war-torn nation deeper into turmoil

WHAT HAS HAPPENED ?

  • Separatists, who want to split from the north Yemen, seized Aden after they accused a party allied to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi of complicity in a Houthi missile attack 
  • The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government hit back on Sunday, saying it attacked one target, after threatening to act if southern forces do not cease fighting

WHAT CAN THE UN DO TO BRING PEACE?

  • For now shuttle diplomacy, UN envoy Martin Griffiths had been trying to salvage a stalled troop withdrawal deal agreed by the Houthis and Hadi’s government
  • He is also trying to calm tension between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia after the movement stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities in recent months

IS SAUDI-UAE ALLIANCE IN YEMEN BROKEN?

  • The coalition is fractured but not broken. Analysts say the UAE is unlikely to recommit troops but will support Riyadh, with which it is working to contain Shi’ite Iran
  • This could be a turning point but it will be papered over by the leaderships in the way that it always is, but papering over bigger cracks now so the paper is thinner and thinner

NOT THE FIRST TIME

  • The war has revived old strains between north and south Yemen, formerly separate countries that united into a single state in 1990. Separatists earlier seized Aden in January 2018 
  • The UAE has asked United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths to exert pressure on both sides. Riyadh said it would host an emergency summit of the parties to restore order and peace

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have allied with distinct Yemeni partners ... Yet to this point in the conflict, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have worked to maintain a relative detente between competing interests in the south. Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst at international crisis group