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Yemen’s former PM to flee Aden as separatist seize presidential palace

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Militants from Yemen's southern separatist movement gather in a street of the country's second city of Aden on January 28, 2018, during clashes with forces loyal to the Saudi-backed president. (Photo by AFP)

Yemen’s self-proclaimed prime minister is reportedly preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia after the UAE-backed separatists seized the presidential palace in the southern port city of Aden, where they have been engaged in fierce clashes with rival Riyadh-sponsored militants.

The Associated Press cited “officials” in Aden as saying on condition of anonymity that separatist militants with the so-called Southern Transitional Council fought all the way to the gates of the Palace of Maashiq in the district of Crater overnight on Monday.

The sources said that the prime minister of the former Yemeni government, Obaid Bin Daghar, would head to Saudi Arabia imminently.

The fresh outburst began on Sunday after the separatists managed to take control of a number of sites and military camps run by forces loyal to former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi following intense clashes.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over 36 people have been killed and nearly 200 others injured during the clashes on Sunday and Monday.

Reports on Monday said the council had sent huge reinforcements from Dhale and Shabwah Provinces, in southwestern and south-central Yemen, to Aden.

Saudi-led coalition calls for ceasefire

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition called for an immediate ceasefire in Aden, saying it will take all necessary measures to restore “security” there.

“The coalition renews its call to all parties to ceasefire immediately and end all forms of armed conflict,” it said in a statement cited by the Saudi SPA agency.

Numerous Arab-language outlets have verified the collision between Saudi and Emirati interests there. Neither Abu Dhabi nor Riyadh has, however, attested to any division within the Saudi-led coalition.

However, Turki al-Maliki, the coalition's spokesman said Monday that all members remained unified in their position and denied any divergence between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi on their support for Hadi’s government.

The UAE has played a key role in the Saudi military campaign against Yemen, which was launched in March 2015 with the aim of reinstalling Hadi's government and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement that currently runs state affairs.

Prior to the offensive, Hadi had resigned and fled to Riyadh. The Saudi regime and its allies later managed to seize Aden from the Houthis and put it under the control of the ex-president’s officials.

The latest wave of violence broke out a week after Aidarous al-Zubaidi, the leader of the separatist council, said in a statement that the self-proclaimed Yemeni parliament would be barred from convening in the city of Aden unless Hadi removes his “prime minister” and his entire “cabinet.”

The statement declared a state of emergency in Aden and said it had begun "the process of overthrowing” Hadi’s “government.”

The separatists have long demanded independence for Yemen’s south, which used to be independent -- with former British colony Aden as its capital -- from its formation in 1967 until 1990, when it was unified with the north.

Last year, it was revealed that the UAE clandestinely supports the secessionists against the Saudi-armed forces loyal to Hadi.

Given its economic importance, Aden’s control would lend considerable leverage to any side exercising ultimate control over the port.

Deadly bomb attack hits Shabwa

Meanwhile, at least 14 people were killed on Tuesday after a car bomb attack targeting a checkpoint northeast of Ataq, the capital of Shabwa.

A source, who requested anonymity, said the bombing struck the checkpoint manned by UAE-trained special operations forces, but gave no further details.

Residents said gunmen opened fire on the checkpoint after a bomber drove his booby-trapped car into the checkpoint.

Fierce fighting forces closure of Oxfam office

In another development on Monday, international charity Oxfam expressed serious concerns over the escalation of clashes in Yemen’s southwestern provinces of Ta’izz and Aden, saying the fighting has forced the organization to temporary close its office in Ta’izz.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said, “We are particularly concerned at reports of civilian casualties and the use of landmines in total disregard to the rules of International Humanitarian Law.”

“With shells landing 500 meters away, we had no choice but to temporarily close our office in Hoban, Ta’izz. We are ready to resume our work providing much needed aid to Yemenis as soon as we can ensure the safety of our staff,” he said.

He further called “on all sides to protect civilians and spare them further death and misery. A ceasefire is urgently needed to protect lives and to allow humanitarian assistance to reach people in need.”

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