Hani Mohammed / AP

Fighting grips Aden as Houthis continue to push into Yemen’s south

Clashes continue in Yemeni coastal city as bombing by Saudi-led coalition targets Houthis’ air defense capabilities

Fierce fighting has been reported in Yemen's coastal city of Aden as Houthi rebels continue their push south despite a fifth night of Saudi-led airstrikes against the group's positions.

Clashes were reported in the Dar Saad district of Aden on Sunday as fighters loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi battled Houthis trying to push their way to the city's northern gate.

Hadi loyalists told Al Jazeera they had recaptured the airport, which has changed hands several times in recent days, as a gun battle raged in Aden's central Crater district. Nearly 100 people are reported to have been killed in the violence in Aden in recent days.

Heavy fighting was also reported in Shabwa province, with local tribes in Beihan telling Al Jazeera that at least 40 Houthi fighters were killed in battles there.

The clashes came as Nabil el-Araby, head of the Arab League, said over the weekend that Saudi-led airstrikes would continue until the Houthis lay down their weapons and withdraw. Saudi Arabia and its allies believe Iran is behind the Houthis, who are Shia, and therefore see their rise as threatening in Sunni-majority Yemen.

"The [airstrikes] came after all other means to achieve a peaceful solution … were exhausted,” Araby said. “The [strikes] will continue until the Houthis hand over their weapons." 

Aid workers said Monday that at least 40 people were killed in northern Yemen after an airstrike hit a camp for internally displaced people. The medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Al-Mazraq camp in the northwestern province of Hajjah was bombed.

Since 2009, Al-Mazraq has been housing Yemenis displaced by the conflict between northern Houthi rebels and the central government. More than 500 new families arrived at the camp over the past two days, Doctors Without Borders said.

Saudi Arabia has not yet commented on the strike. Earlier in the day, the country's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom was keeping its options open over whether to send ground troops to Yemen.

"I don't know that anyone wants to go into Yemen, but we don't rule anything out," Reuters quoted him as saying. "Right now the objective is being achieved through an air campaign." 

Some of the latest airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, which includes 10 countries, targeted the Houthis' main stronghold of Saada in the north and also hit ammunition depots and airports.

"The coalition has been targeting the air defense capabilities of the Houthis, including surface-to-air missiles, artillery and anti-aircraft batteries," said Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the spokesman for the coalition. He accused the Houthis of amassing a "huge stockpile of weapons in all cities of the republic."

In Saada, near the border with Saudi Arabia, raids hit bases under the control of the group and their ally former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after a 2011 uprising but retains considerable influence in Yemen and still controls most army units.

He appealed on Saturday to Arab leaders meeting in Egypt to halt their offensive and resume talks on political transition in Yemen, promising that neither he nor his relatives would seek the presidency.

Riyadh Yasin, Hadi's foreign minister, dismissed his comments as "the talk of losers."

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned television channel Al-Arabiya broadcast a detailed account of a proposal by Saleh's son Ahmed Saleh to the Saudi leadership to break with the Houthis in order to end military intervention. Until recently, Ahmed Saleh served as Yemen’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Arabiya said Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammad rejected Ahmed Saleh's proposal.

"There must be a return to legitimacy in the form of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to lead Yemen from the capital Sanaa," it quoted him as saying.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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