Yemeni fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition mobilised troops, weapons and armoured vehicles on Wednesday to wrest back the whole of Aden from Houthi forces after taking part of the southern port city the previous day, militia officials said.
The local militiamen and army units seized the city’s international airport and a surrounding district on Tuesday, in the dominant Houthi group’s biggest setback in more than three months of war.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have been bombing the Houthis and their allies from the air since March 26 in the hope of reinstating Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, an ally of Saudi Arabia who fled into exile in Riyadh.
The Iran-allied Houthis say their takeover of the capital in September and armed push into Yemen’s south and east in March and April are part of a revolution against a corrupt government and hardline Sunni Muslim militants.
Residents said scores of the fighters were gathering at entrances to their neighbourhoods in an planned offensive that the Houthis have dubbed “Operation Golden Arrow”.
A Reuters witness saw about 40 dun-coloured armoured vehicles, which the militiamen said were provided and shipped behind their lines by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and were vital for their battle to win back control of the airport.
Ali al-Ahmedi, spokesman for anti-Houthi forces in the city, said they would build on their capture on Tuesday of Khormaksar – a district that acts as a bridge between the mainland and a peninsula where much of the city lies.
“The southern resistance in coordination with reconstituted army units and coalition aircraft are moving into position to lift the siege on the area of Crater, Mualla and Tawahi and to storm and seize them back,” al-Ahmedi said.
“The clearing of these areas is a matter of hours,” he said.
Houthi-led media said the air campaign continued unabated on Wednesday, killing 13 people in bombings throughout the country.
The Saudi-led campaign of air strikes has done little to reverse the Houthi group’s advantage in the city and in battle lines stretching across Yemen’s south.
Following Tuesday’s advance, residents of cities across Yemen’s south set off fireworks, honked horns and chanted slogans promising a swift victory over the Houthis.