The United Arab Emirates has termed Saudi-backed elements operating in southern Yemen “terrorist militias,” exposing a deep rift between the two camps leading a coalition in a bloody war on Yemen.
In a statement, the UAE’s Foreign Ministry said it had carried out air raids against “terrorist militias” threatening the Riyadh-led coalition “based on confirmed field intelligence.”
The “preemptive operation” was an act of “self-defense” against “armed groups affiliated with terrorist organizations,” added the statement carried by the UAE’s official WAM news agency.
It came hours after Emirati-backed southern separatists regained control of Aden, forcing Saudi-sponsored militants loyal to ex-Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had entered the port city a day earlier, to withdraw.
The self-proclaimed Hadi administration said the UAE’s airstrikes had killed and wounded more than 300 people.
On Friday, the administration denounced what it called “false justifications given by the UAE to cover up its blatant targeting of” the Saudi-backed elements.
It further accused the UAE of attempting “to attach terrorism” to the Saudi-sponsored forces.
Houthi: UAE statement shows illegality of war
Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, tweeted on Friday that the UAE statement was another proof that the war on his country is illegal.
“The UAE’s admission by its statement of bombing of Saudi-backed terrorists confirms that the aggression against Yemen is illegal,” he said. “Terrorism is America, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies, they are their supporters and founders to destroy Yemen.”
The UAE statement further confirmed Yemen’s assertion that Saudi Arabia is actually supporting terrorists rather than fighting them, Houthi said, describing the US as “the mother of terrorism.”
In a statement, Hadi called on Saudi Arabia to intervene in order to stop what he called the UAE interference and support for the separatists.
He also noted that his forces had “withdrawn” from Aden to spare Aden” and prevent its “destruction” following the UAE air raids.
According to a Friday report by the Gulf News, an English language newspaper published from Dubai, the coalition views the areas it has occupied in Yemen as “gains.”
In recent weeks, southern Yemen has witnessed clashes between UAE-backed southern separatists and pro-Hadi Saudi-led militants. Both camps serve the Riyadh-led coalition, which has been waging a brutal military campaign against Yemen since 2015.
The clashes erupted in the port city of Aden weeks after the UAE announced a surprise plan to pull out part of its troops from Yemen in a major blow to its coalition allies.
Ties between the two sides have soured over a number of issues, including what the Yemenis view as Abu Dhabi’s intention to occupy Yemen’s strategic Socotra Island and gain dominance over the major waterways in the region.
The Western-backed war on Yemen, coupled with a naval blockade, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.