At least 2,400 citizens have been forcibly expelled from Aden, while over 1,600 shops have been burned and damaged, more than 1,700 shops closed and 76 cars confiscated.
ADEN, YEMEN — Following the recent announcement by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that it would begin withdrawing its forces from many areas of Yemen, the oil-rich Gulf monarchy is now positioning itself to play a role in post-war Yemen. The UAE government in Abu Dhabi announced it would form a new southern state in Yemen, clearly to serve its own geopolitical ambitions, namely to secure trade routes through the port of Aden to the rest of the world and to exploit Yemen’s natural resources.
Residents in Aden are still enduring a harrowing situation thanks to ongoing clashes between proxy militias of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which erupted again on Wednesday, leaving dozens killed and injured and causing thousands of civilians to either flee or seek refuge in their homes.
The clashes, the first between the UAE and Saudi Arabia since 2015 when they announced their deadly war on Yemen, have severely impacted the lives of Aden’s residents, who have become trapped and are unable to access local clinics, hospitals, markets, or schools.
On Wednesday, UAE-backed proxy militias announced a military campaign to oust militant supporters of Yemen’s former government led by Abdul Mansour al Hadi, pledging to expel them from the city. The separatist militants chose a funeral for dozens of their fellow fighters, including a senior militant commander, who were killed in last week’s Houthi missile attack to fire the first bullet.
The well-equipped UAE-backed militia, Security Belt, attacked strategic areas in and around Aden, including the Jebel Hadid hilltop in the Crater district, the highest point in Aden. By seizing the strategic hilltop, the Security Belt will be able to easily target any of the city’s neighborhoods. The attack on Jebel Hadid was supported by UAE warplanes, which used illuminating bombs to facilitate the takeover.
On Friday violence reached the center of the Crater district, where Aden’s Central Bank stands, and nearby Khormaksar, where a number of makeshift military bases are nestled among dense residential neighborhoods. Heavy shelling rocked both areas, putting thousands of civilians in danger.
According to the testimonies of Aden residents, the clashes have spread to the streets near to airport its surrounding neighborhoods. Tanks and heavy weapons were used and the sound of gunfire echoed through the city as smoke and fire could be seen rising from many of Aden’s districts. The recent violence has exposed a major rift within the Saudi-led military coalition in its devastating war on Yemen, a war that has killed tens of thousands of people since it began in 2015 and has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Common cause but rival agendas
Prior to the onset of the recent clashes in Aden, the leader of the UAE-backed Security Belt militia, Hani bin Breik, called on supporters to overthrow “the Saudi-backed internationally-recognized Hadi government” in Aden. Bin Breik told supporters of the UAE to march toward the Maasheeq Palace in the southern coastal city, which has for years served as the temporary capital of the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen.
“We announce a general mobilization of all our southern forces to march toward the Maasheeq Palace,” Breik said, accusing Saudi forces stationed at the presidential headquarters of attacking demonstrators loyal to the separatist movement during a funeral. Breik was designated by the UAE as deputy chairman of the Southern Transitional Council and is a close aide to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
A tweet posted by Mokhtar al-Rahbi, an advisor to the Coalition government’s minister of information, shows video of bin Breik making the statement.
الإرهابي هاني بن بريك المطلوب للقضاء يعلن النفير ضد الشرعية ويدعوا للفوضى وأقتحام القصر الرئاسي في عدن . pic.twitter.com/L9qOYMeFXP
— مختار الرحبي (@alrahbi5) August 7, 2019
Translation: “The terrorist Hani bin Breik, the wanted fugitive, announces mobilization against the legitimate government, and calls for chaos and storming the presidential palace in Aden.”
The United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has expressed concern about the flare-up in Aden, saying in a statement in the wake of the clashes, “I am alarmed by the military escalations in Aden today, including reports of clashes in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace.” Griffiths continued:
Escalations of violence will contribute to instability and suffering in Aden and will deepen Yemen’s political and social divisions. I call on the parties involved to abandon violence and engage in dialogue to resolve differences. I also urge all those with influence to de-escalate the situation and ensure the protection of civilians.”
Throughout the war in Yemen, the UAE has been successful in founding both political entities and armed militias in southern Yemen to carry out it interests, including the Security Belt and Elite Forces militias.
The Gulf monarchy also worked to unite the various radical separatist southern forces calling for independence from northern Yemen within the framework of the Southern Transitional Council. It has provided financial and political support and well as guarantees to the groups that they will have a role in any future political authority in southern Yemen.
Local Yemeni militias loyal to either the UAE or Saudi Arabia have been engaged in a bloody military campaign against Yemen to reinstate ousted former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi since 2015, But, while reinstating Hadi was the primary justification for the Coalition’s war on Yemen, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have found themselves pursuing rival agendas in the country, including efforts by the UAE to split Yemen into two countries, North and South.
Despite sending reinforcements from western Yemen and the eastern province of Shabwa, the official Saudi position regarding the recent clashes in Aden remains vague and the Kingdom has not yet moved to protect its allies in the port city. Saudi media outlets, however, are covering the developments in Aden as a coup against legitimacy, describing UAE supporters and forces as terrorists.
The practice of every mercenary and traitor
While the Coalition partners battle it out, both literally and figuratively, over the rights to post-war Yemen, Yemen’s people are left picking up the pieces. Before the clashes in Aden broke out, UAE-backed forces were accused of carrying out a racially motivated ethnic cleansing campaign against Yemeni residents of Aden who originate from the country’s northern regions. Workers, travelers, refugees, and even medical patients were reportedly targeted in the campaign, which left thousands of Yemeni citizens from rural areas without the ability to travel to Aden to receive medical treatment.
Mohammed Hassan, who has worked as a barber in Aden since he was 20 years old, told MintPress that UAE-backed forces raided his shop and beat him before dragging him outside and forcing him without prior notice onto a bus with 90 other people to be deported to northern Yemen.
“Groups belonging to the UAE-backed Security Belt Forces burned my cart then deported me,” a cart vendor from northern Yemen, who was living in Aden when he was apprehended and deported from the Mansoura market in central Aden, told MintPress.
Videos circulating on social media show Southern Transitional Council Forces attacking, beating and insulting Yemenis in a market before gathering them on a bus and deporting them out of the city. Another video seen by MintPress shows a member of the Security Belt humiliating vendors and workers, accusing them of being secret cells that came to fight the southerners.
At least 2,400 citizens have been forcibly expelled from Aden, while over 1,600 shops have been burned and damaged, more than 1,700 shops closed and 76 cars confiscated, according to statistics from the Southern Media Center.
Nearly 600 families have been forced to leave their homes in Aden due to the violence; 87 homes have been raided or damaged; 250 detainees remain unaccounted for, and an estimated 6 million Yemenis have been prevented from entering Aden to travel abroad.
“Security forces searched hotels and restaurants, stopping people, demanding their identification, and rounding up those hailing from the northern parts of Yemen,” according to the UN’s Human Rights Office, which accused southern Yemeni security forces of perpetrating discriminatory attacks against citizens from the country’s north on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement:
The UAE-backed Security Belt forces are reportedly carrying out and enabling retaliatory attacks against civilians. …We have received information from multiple sources about arbitrary arrests and detention, forced displacement, physical assaults and harassment.”
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor released a statement on August 6 that the forced removals of Yemeni citizens in the city of Aden is politically and regionally motivated and fueled by international parties aimed at imposing a new political reality in Aden.
Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi said on Friday that the campaign of deportations and looting targeting people from Yemen’s northern provinces in Aden is “the real project of the coalition of aggression under the U.S. orders.”
Al-Houthi’s remarks came in a tweet as the Security Belt forces continue to prevent citizens from the north from entering Aden, arresting and interrogating them and closing ports linking the southern and northern provinces. Al-Houthi added:
The emergence of the destructive project of the aggression and its mercenaries is clear. [In] carrying out racist attack on the northerners, the aggressor [Saudi-led Coalition] depends on the southerners — this is the practice of every mercenary and traitor.”
Fueling tensions even more, the UAE recently succeeded in assassinating Abdul-Malik al-Houthi’s brother Ibrahim Badre al-Dein al-Houthi. The former is a very popular figure in northern Yemen.
The Houthi-backed Yemeni Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Ibrahim Badre al-Dein al-Houthi was assassinated by “treacherous hands affiliated with the U.S.-Saudi-Israeli aggression,” adding it would “spare no effort to find Ibrahim’s killers.”
Ibrahim Badre al-Dein al-Houthi was a security commander but his assassination is not expected to affect the Houthis or change the balance of security in favor of the Saudi Coalition. Al-Dein al-Houthi was not among the 40 members of the Houthis placed on a Saudi hit list with offers of million-plus dollars rewards for their death. His brother Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi — founder of the movement — was killed in 2004 by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who himself was later killed by the Houthis in 2017.
Feature photo | Members of UAE-backed Security Belt forces patrol are seen on a street in Aden, Yemen August 8, 2019. Fawaz Salman | Reuters