Fighting intensifies between Yemen’s government forces and Southern Transitional Council

STC said to make advances against Muslim-Brotherhood backed forces.
Wednesday 13/05/2020
Fighters from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) during clashes with government forces in the Sheikh Salim area in the southern Abyan province on May 12. (AFP)
Fighters from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) during clashes with government forces in the Sheikh Salim area in the southern Abyan province on May 12. (AFP)

ADEN--Fighting between Yemen’s government forces and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) intensified Tuesday in the Shaqra region east of Aden, despite the coronavirus crisis that is affecting the impoverished Arab country.

As clashes rage on, Yemeni sources told The Arab Weekly that both sides are mobilising more reinforcements, and that the government’s continued efforts to attack STC positions show its submission to the Turkish-Qatari agenda.

STC forces managed at dawn Monday to repel a second attack by the Muslim Brotherhood-backed forces, following the arrival of additional reinforcements from the governorates of Marib and Shabwa, Yemeni journalist Yasser Al-Yafie told The Arab Weekly.

Yafie added that STC forces have made new gains, advancing seven kilometres towards Qarn Al-Kulasi area in Abyan, after seizing control of the Sheikh Salem area.

Yafie also said that Qarn Al-Kulasi, where the Muslim Brotherhood-backed forces are stationed, is now within range of STC forces’ fire, and expects further escalation in light of ongoing military mobilisation from both sides.

The surge in violence comes just one day after Yemen’s local health authorities declared the southern port city of Aden an “infected area” following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as well as mosquito-borne diseases.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hadhrami said on his official Twitter account that his government remained committed to the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia in November to defuse tension after the STC briefly took over Aden in August.

On April 25, the STC declared a plan to establish self-rule in Aden and other areas under its control, blaming the Yemeni government of intransigence and refusing to implement the Saudi-brokered agreement on southern Yemen.

In a series of recent tweets, Hadhrami also said the STC had refused calls from the government and the international community to reverse its declaration.

The army will do “everything necessary to preserve the state, its institutions, and the safety of its citizens against (the STC),” he said.

In response to Hadhrami’s comments, a member of the STC’s Presidency, Salem Thabet al-Awlaki, accused him of conducting a “strategy to evade adherence to the Riyadh Agreement that the government has shunned under pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar.”

Awlaki noted that the Saudi-led Arab coalition is fully aware of the government’s moves to obstruct the Riyadh pact by trying to impose a fait accompli through military escalation and continuous media and political provocations aimed at aggravating the situation and pushing for a comprehensive confrontation that serves the Qatari and Turkish agenda as well as the Iranian project in Yemen.

The Riyadh Agreement was signed in November last year between the elected Yemeni government and the STC, ending months of stand-off between the two sides in Aden.

The main points of the deal include the unification of all military forces under the ministries of interior and defense, and the formation of an efficient government made up equally between the north and south of Yemen.

In a televised speech Monday, leader of the Aden-based STC Aidarous Zubaidi directed his military units and the southern people to “defend their gains.”

Zubaidi’s office said in a statement “due to the conflicting political agendas of the Yemeni government and its failures in all fronts, it has deliberately sparked a new conflict, through attacking our forces stationed in Abyan without justification.”

The statement said “we have been patient throughout the previous period, and avoided responding to all violations committed by the government due to our respect to the agreement sponsored by Saudi Arabia.”

Earlier in the day, the STC made a decision and directed all of its military units in Aden and neighbouring southern provinces to raise the level of combat readiness to confront any imminent attack aimed at invading Aden militarily.

Heavy forces backed by armoured vehicles of the STC were deployed in different locations of Aden while other military units were left to participate in the fighting taking place in the neighbouring province of Abyan.

Attacks on Aden by Muslim Brotherhood-backed forces have been criticised as a waste of time and resources, aimed at confusing the intervention of the Saudi-led Arab coalition at a time when Iran-backed Houthis are in control of Al-Jawf, threatening an attack on Marib and preparing to launch a new offensive in Al-Bayda