Rival Yemeni camps entrench as flights arrive

2015-03-02 13:57
A plane from Mahan Air, an Iranian private airline, after it landed in Sana'a. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

A plane from Mahan Air, an Iranian private airline, after it landed in Sana'a. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

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Sana'a - An Iranian airplane delivered supplies to Yemen's Shi'ite rebel-held capital on Sunday, while the president gained support from influential tribal and provincial leaders in signs that the rival camps seeking to rule the country were entrenching their positions.

The first direct flight from Shi'ite powerhouse Iran to Sana'a was carrying 12 tons of medical supplies as well as tents and Red Crescent aid workers, said Iran's deputy ambassador Rasai Ebadi. It came a day after rebel Houthi representatives signed an agreement in Tehran to set up 14 direct weekly flights between the two countries.

The move underscored how the rebels, who are widely suspected of being backed by Iran, are strengthening their grip over state institutions and exercising sovereign power in Sana'a even as the country's president insists he is still in charge after fleeing to the south.

"The Houthis want to show they're not disconnected from the world; that they are not desperate, so they're reviving relations with Iran," said Yemen analyst Hisham al-Omeisy.

House arrest

"The flights are a bit peculiar and people are surprised. Yemenis don't usually fly to Iran, for tourism or work or medical treatment, so 14 weekly flights seem like a bit too much. The point of the medical supplies was to kill the rumour that more weapons will be coming in to support the Houthis," he added.

Western embassies shut down and evacuated staff from Sana'a last month after the rebels stormed the presidential palace and placed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet ministers under house arrest.

Hadi, who still claims to be the country's ruler, later managed to flee to the southern city of Aden.

While Russia, China, Iran and Oman have kept their embassies operating in Sana'a, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have moved theirs to Aden. Qatar said on Sunday it too said it would open its embassy there.

Read more on:    abed rabbo mansour hadi  |  yemen

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