Yemen conflict: Aden’s situation ‘catastrophic’, says Red Cross3 min read . Updated: 07 Apr 2015, 06:41 PM IST
Loyalist forces battle rebels in the streets backed by shelling by Saudi-led warships
Aden: The Red Cross warned on Tuesday of a “catastrophic" situation in Yemen’s main southern city Aden, as loyalist forces battled rebels in the streets backed by shelling by Saudi-led warships.
The Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels and their allies made a new push on a port in the central Mualla district of the city but were forced back by militia loyal to fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, witnesses said.
Naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, which has carried out nearly two weeks of air strikes in support of Hadi’s beleaguered government, shelled rebel positions across the city, they added.
Spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, Marie Claire Feghali, said that the humanitarian situation in all of Yemen is “very difficult...(with) naval, air and ground routes cut off."
She described the situation in Aden as “catastrophic to say the least."
“The war in Aden is on every street, in every corner... Many are unable to escape," she said.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the situation was “worsening by the day," with wounded people unable to get to hospital because of the fighting.
The MSF medical team in Aden had “not received large numbers of casualties over the past few days, not because there are no wounded people, but due to the difficulties faced in trying to reach a hospital," MSF Yemen representative Marie-Elisabeth Ingres said.
MSF has a team of 140 local staff and eight expatriates at a hospital in Aden.
“Our priority is to find a way to send a supporting medical team," Ingres told AFP, adding that a team is waiting in Djibouti “for a greenlight from the coalition."
At least 10 people were killed in fighting in Aden overnight, medical and security sources said. That was on top of at least 53 people killed over the previous 24 hours.
Nationwide, more than 540 people have been killed and 1,700 wounded in fighting in Yemen since 19 March, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
The UN’s children agency UNICEF said at least 74 children had been confirmed killed since the coalition air strikes began on 26 March, adding that it believed the real figure to be much higher.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, the agency added.
During the night, Saudi-led warplanes carried out fresh strikes on the rebel-held Al-Anad air base north of Aden, pro-Hadi General Muthanna Jawas said.
Further east, Al-Qaeda’s Yemen franchise — seen by the US as the jihadist network’s most dangerous — sought to tighten its grip on Hadramawt province, a longtime stronghold.
Residents reported loud explosions as the jihadists attacked a loyalist army base in the provincial capital Mukalla, much of which they captured last week.
Observers have warned Al-Qaeda could exploit the fighting between Hadi’s supporters and opponents to expand its control following the withdrawal of US troops overseeing a longstanding drone war against it.
Pakistan meanwhile said it would take its time deciding whether to accept a Saudi request to join the coalition, which so far consists of of nine Arab — mostly Sunni — countries.
Pakistan’s neighbour Iran — the main Shiite power — has strongly criticised the coalition’s intervention and rejected its accusations of arming the Shiite rebels.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Parliament that his government was “not in a hurry" to decide on the Saudi request.
He said that diplomatic efforts were under way involving Turkey as well as Iran and Pakistan that he expected to quickly bear fruit.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has expressed support for the coalition campaign without providing military forces, held talks in Tehran on Tuesday.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is expected in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Pakistan faces a tricky dilemma over intervention in Yemen. It has long enjoyed close ties with Riyadh and has benefited hugely from the oil-rich kingdom’s largesse.
But it has called for a negotiated solution saying it does not want to take part in any conflict that would worsen sectarian divisions in the Muslim world.