Dozens of militants were killed as Saudi-backed mercenaries and their allied Emirati soldiers fought in the southern Yemeni city of Aden Sunday, local medical staff said, deepening a rift between forces that had been on the same side.
The worst clashes yet between UAE-backed southern separatists and forces loyal to Saudi Arabia and fugitive Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi risk crippling their once united war effort against the impoverished Arab country.
Gunmen were deployed throughout most districts of Aden on Sunday and there was heavy automatic gunfire and explosions in the southern port city, according to Reuters witnesses.
Armed separatists wrested a key military base and several government buildings from pro-Hadi forces.
The clashes come as a deadline imposed by the separatists for the fugitive government to resign expired on Sunday.
In a statement late on Saturday before the clashes began, the Saudi-led coalition urged all parties to seek “calm and restraint, adhering to the language of a calm dialogue.”
Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for almost years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, an ally of Riyadh.
Over 14,000 Yemenis, including thousands of women and children, have lost their lives in the deadly military campaign.