Blamed on the Houthi rebels, Wednesday’s attack on Aden airport killed at least 26 people and occurred just as members of the president’s new cabinet arrived from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck targets in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa as the country’s new power-sharing government vowed to bring stability to the war-torn country a day after deadly blasts rocked Aden airport.
The coalition accused the Houthi movement, which it has been fighting for six years, of staging the attack on Aden's airport and a second one on the presidential palace.
Thursday's coalition air strikes hit Sanaa airport and several other sites in and around the city, residents said. Loud blasts were heard and warplanes flew overhead for several hours, they said.
Houthi-run Masirah television said the planes hit at least 15 locations in different districts in the capital. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Coalition air strikes have killed thousands, including many civilians, over the course of the war.
But they have been less frequent in recent years as the conflict has reached a stalemate, with the Iran-aligned Houthis controlling most population centers and President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government, supported by Riyadh and Western powers, basing itself in Aden.
A “cowardly terrorist act”
The new power-sharing Yemeni government vowed to bring stability to the war-torn country after the attack ripped through Aden's airport targeting cabinet members.
At least 26 people, including three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, were killed and scores were wounded when explosions rocked the airport as ministers disembarked from an aircraft in the southern city.
Video footage shot by AFP shows what appears to be a missile striking the airport apron, which moments before had been packed with crowds, and exploding into a ball of intense flames.
Yemen's internationally recognised government said Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired four ballistic missiles at the airport. Rebel officials did not answer phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. No one on the government plane was hurt.
Officials later reported another explosion close to a palace in the city where the Cabinet members were transferred following the airport attack.
But it is still not fully clear what caused the explosions.
Prime Minister Saeed tweeted that he and his Cabinet were safe and unhurt. He called the explosions a “cowardly terrorist act” that was part of the war on “the Yemeni state and our great people.”
Government vows stability
Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak said the new unity government is up to the challenges facing a country that has long been the Arabian Peninsula's most impoverished nation.
"The government is determined to fulfil its duty and work to restore stability in Yemen," he said.
"This terrorist attack will not deter it from that."
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen's grinding five-year war, which has triggered what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian disaster.
The cabinet ministers arrived in Aden days after being sworn in by President Hadi in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the Houthi insurgents.
Hadi fled to Riyadh after Yemen's capital Sanaa fell to the Houthis in 2014.
We #ICRC_YE grief the loss of three of our colleagues. A very sad end of a difficult year. My heartfelt condolences to all the families who have lost a loved one in yesterday’s airport explosion in Aden. https://t.co/kS38KVLPON— Katharina Ritz (@KRitzICRC) December 31, 2020
New but fractured government
The new government includes ministers loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, as well as other parties.
While all oppose the Houthi rebels, deep divisions have grown among them, including through sporadic military clashes in and around Aden between the secessionists and forces loyal to the central government.
Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the unity government to quell the "war within a civil war" and to bolster the coalition against the Houthi insurgents, which control Sanaa and much of the north.
Some ministers, including Mubarak, blamed the Houthi insurgents for the attack but other government officials remained more circumspect.
"Information and preliminary investigations show that the Houthi militia was behind this ugly terrorist attack," Mubarak told AFP, adding that missiles were launched from rebel-held areas.