ADEN/DUBAI (Reuters) – Southern Yemeni separatists withdrew on Saturday from some government buildings in Aden that they seized last week but held on to military camps that give them control over the southern port, interim seat of Yemen’s ousted Saudi-backed government.
The separatists’ takeover of Aden has strained a Saudi-led military coalition formed to confront the Iranian-aligned Houthis, who bombed a Saudi oil facility on Saturday.
A Houthi military spokesman said 10 drones launched toward oil installations at Shaybah in eastern Saudi Arabia constituted the “biggest attack in the depths” of the kingdom.
The state oil company Saudi Aramco said the attack had caused a “limited fire” at a gas plant which had been contained and had not affected production. Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih condemned the strike as “cowardly” sabotage.
The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and its Shi’ite regional rival, Iran.
The Western-backed Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis ousted him from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.
The United Nations has been trying to implement a stalled peace deal in the port city of Hodeidah and pave the way for political talks to end the war, which has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said that events in Aden showed the coalition was in crisis and that Hadi was powerless.
“Those who supported the aggressors… have no authority or freedom, but are subservient to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” the group’s Al Masirah TV quoted him as saying.
He said the strike on Saudi oil assets near the border with the United Arab Emirates was also a warning to the UAE, which has scaled down its military presence in the coalition but continued to funds and arm the southern separatists.
Al Masirah reported that the Houthis had appointed an ambassador to Iran.
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