The United Arab Emirates carried out air strikes against government forces in South Yemen in support of southern separatists who deployed reinforcements to take back control of Aden port from alleged allies in the Saudi-led coalition.
The UAE, the second foreign power in the coalition, said it carried out air strikes against “terrorist organisations” attacking Saudi-led coalition forces at Aden airport.
“The recent aggravation in offensives against the Arab Coalition forces and civilians poses a menacing threat to the security of the coalition,” UAE said in a statement published by WAM news agency. “This necessitated precise and direct air strikes on 28 and 29 August against terrorist militias.”
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi called on Saudi Arabia to intervene to stop UAE interference and support for separatists battling to take Aden.
He added in a statement posted by state news agency SABA government forces withdrew from Aden to prevent the city being destroyed, following the UAE air strikes that left dozens killed and wounded.
Yemen’s Defence Ministry said in a statement more than 300 people were killed and wounded by UAE air strikes on Aden and Abyan Province.
Earlier Southern Yemeni separatists brought reinforcements in to bolster positions in Aden, a day after heavy fighting between separatists and government forces – previous allies.
There were sporadic clashes across Aden during the day and fighters from both sides patrolled deserted streets, residents said. Shops, restaurants and businesses were closed.
The internationally recognised government of President Hadi, in Aden since it was ousted from Sanaa by Iran-aligned Houthi forces in 2014, said it recaptured Aden airport and controlled most of the city. Its foes disputed the claim.
A Western-armed, Sunni Muslim coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis and the southern separatist allied themselves with the coalition.
The United Arab Emirates has fallen out with Hadi and withdrawn ground forces, prompting the separatists of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) to gain control of Aden.
On Thursday, the STC said some troops on the outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah, under Houthi control, returned to Aden to join the battle against Hadi forces.
“To whoever said the Southern Resistance has fled, I say: We are here,” STC vice-president Hani Ben Brik said in a social media message showing him with fighters outside Aden airport.
A Yemeni official said Saudi Arabia and the UAE made contact with both sides to defuse the conflict, but more fighters were seen arriving in Aden and southern provinces Shabwa, Lahej and Abyan.
Aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it took in 51 casualties during the fighting in Aden on Wednesday, 10 dead when they reached hospital.
“It’s total chaos here. There was fighting in the city all day. Things appear to have calmed down a bit this morning, but we expect hostilities to resume at any point,” MSF programme manager Caroline Seguin said in a statement.
The UN Security Council expressed concern over the increasing violence and humanitarian impact and called on all parties to show restraint and to preserve Yemen’s territorial integrity. The Council condemned increased Houthi attacks on Saudi civilian infrastructure and called for them to stop.
The separatists aim to restore the South Yemen republic which merged with the north in 1990. They clashed with government forces for several years before new hostilities this month.
Saudi Arabia called for a summit to end the standoff, which thwarts UN efforts to end a war that has driven Yemen to the brink of famine and is widely seen as a proxy struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional dominance.
Hadi’s government will not participate until separatists cede control of sites seized earlier in August.