SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni troops and local militias, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, seized full control of the strategic port city of Aden after repelling Shiite rebels from their last holdout in this southern city and were pushing on Thursday to solidify their gains, military officials said.
The battle for Aden has been the epicenter of Yemen's conflict over the past several weeks. The rebels, known as Houthis, seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, last September and then began pressing their advance south. Fierce fighting over Aden broke out in March, sparking the Saudi-led airstrikes that have been targeting the rebels to halt their advance.
More than 1,690 civilians have been killed since late March, according to figures released by the United Nations this week.
The anti-Houthi forces made significant gains in Aden over the past week, with battles to drive the rebels and their allies out of the city stretching on for days.
The troops were able to take control late Wednesday of the presidential compound, which sits on rocks that jut out into the sea and houses a number of villas beside the presidential palace. Several rebels were captured and an undetermined number were killed in the fighting, officials said.
The compound had been briefly used as base by the now-exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi earlier this year. As fighting picked up in Aden in March, Hadi left to Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, anti-rebel forces erected new checkpoints around Aden and searched for remaining rebels. Gunmen, some even younger than 20-years old, roamed the streets amid pockmarked and half destroyed buildings. Residents cautiously ventured out of their homes.
"The city is unrecognizable," said resident Hameed al-Qureishi.
Meanwhile, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition continued north of Aden, in Dar Saad on Thursday.
There was also intense fighting around the rebel-controlled military base of al-Anad in the province of Lahj, north of Aden, leaving at least 50 killed on both sides, according to medical officials. A third attempt to storm the base has failed, said a military official.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters.