Foreign nationals continued to flee war-torn Yemen in large numbers over the weekend, as the crisis in the Middle East country rages on with no end in sight.
Two Russian Il-62 planes arrived in Moscow early Sunday carrying over 300 evacuees. About 70 of them are Russian citizens, while others hail from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Syria, Iraq and some other countries.
India on Saturday evacuated 439 of its nationals to a naval ship anchored off the coast. France, Sri Lanka and Algeria also carried out evacuation operations.
China has so far evacuated 571 Chinese nationals from Yemen in two batches, and a third mission is planned on Sunday.
It has also helped evacuate 233 foreign nationals, most of whom were ferried out Thursday in China’s first overseas evacuation operation for foreign nationals.
SAUDI-LED AIR STRIKES
A Saudi-led coalition on Saturday continued to pound rebels in southern Yemen and dropped more arms to tribal militia allied with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as part of Operation Decisive Storm.
On the ground, fierce fighting occurred between fighters loyal to Hadi and the Houthi militants in the port city of Aden, which killed at least 13 rebel fighters.
The pro-Hadi fighters have managed to drive the Houthi militants away from central Aden, including Hadi’s presidential compound. Hadi declared Aden as temporary capital after he fled weeks of house arrest in Sanaa.
At least 185 people have been killed and more than 1,200 wounded from the fighting in Aden since the start of Operation Decisive Storm, according to the city’s health department director, Al-Kheder Lassouar, who said three-quarters were civilians.
In capital Sanaa, the coalition has reduced air strikes due to poor visibility caused by sandstorm. According to state news agency Saba, an air strike on a village near Sanaa on Friday killed a family of nine, including six children.
In Hadramawt province, tribal forces have taken over two abandoned army bases, and plan to retake provincial capital Mukalla from suspected al-Qaeda fighters.
In a statement, the tribal alliance said it intends to advance on Mukalla and restore security after suspected al-Qaeda fighters drove the army out and ransacked the town, burning buildings and breaking into banks and the main prison.
Up to Saturday, air strikes have claimed at least 130 lives and wounded 500 others. Hundreds of Sanaa civilians demonstrated on Friday to protest against the air campaign.
As the situation deteriorates, the UN Security Council on Saturday held an emergency closed-door meeting at the request of Russia, and is now working on a Moscow-proposed draft resolution.
The meeting expressed concern over the grave humanitarian situation Yemen has been facing for a while, and decided to convene a gathering with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council over the weekend.
Jordanian UN Ambassador Dina Kawar, this month’s president of the 15-nation council, said the council tries to come up with something by Monday.
Russia and the Red Cross appealed on Saturday for a military pause in Yemen to allow urgent humanitarian aid deliveries and evacuation of civilians.
The unscheduled meeting was the second — following one on March 22 — the council convened over the past two weeks on the Yemen crisis.
The security situation in Yemen began to deteriorate sharply in early March, when conflict erupted in several provinces in the country’s southern regions.
The Saudi-led coalition started late last month air strikes on Houthi targets in Sanaa and other cities, saying the multinational action is to protect Hadi’s legitimacy and force the Houthis to retreat from cities they have seized since September 2014. Enditem