Yemen Leaders Alarmed as Rebels Reach Central Aden

ADEN (Reuters) -

A unit of Houthi rebels and allies backed by tanks pushed into central Aden, the main foothold of fighters loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, witnesses said on Wednesday, despite a week of air strikes by Saudi-led coalition forces.

The alliance of mainly Sunni Gulf Arab states has also attacked the northern Shi’ite Houthis from the sea but their advance toward the southern port city has been relentless.

Hadi’s aides expressed alarm.

“What’s happening now would be a disaster for Aden and its people, if Aden falls,” Reyad Yassin Abdulla told Al Jazeera. The Houthi movement was jubilant. “We can say that after a week of bombing on Yemen the aggressors have not achieved any result … The victories in Aden today embarrass this campaign and silenced the aggressor states,” Houthi spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam told the militia’s al-Maseera television.

Asked for his reaction, a Saudi military spokesman said Houthi forces had been in Aden before the alliance began its campaign on March 26 and had fought daily battles against the people of the city. Tanks appearing there had always been a possibility, he said without elaborating.

The Houthis, with vital support from army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, emerged as the dominant force in Yemen after they took over the capital six months ago and they now control much of the Arabian Peninsula country.