First UN aid ship in four months docks in Yemen's Aden

Aden (AFP) - A UN aid ship docked in Yemen's devastated port city of Aden Tuesday, bringing in desperately needed relief supplies after four months of fierce fighting between rebels and loyalist fighters.

The humanitarian aid arrived as forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi pressed on with operations to tighten their control over the southern city.

"This is the first boat carrying the UN flag to dock in Aden since the war began" in late March, provincial Governor Nayef al-Bakri told reporters at the port before a second vessel also docked.

Transport Minister Badr Basalmeh said the second ship was sent by the United Arab Emirates.

The UN's World Food Programme ship carried 4,700 tonnes of food supplies and pharmaceutical aid, and the second carried 2,315 tonnes of medical aid, the minister said.

The WFP had tried repeatedly in past weeks to deliver aid to Aden but was unable to do so because of security concerns.

Vessels sent by the UAE managed to reach the city in May, but not under the UN flag.

A humanitarian ceasefire declared by the United Nations earlier this month failed to take hold. The WFP had described the truce as the "final hope" to deliver aid.

The WFP had sent aid ahead of the truce to the rebel-controlled port of Hodeida in western Yemen, but the insurgents did not allow an aid convoy to travel to Aden.

The United Nations had warned then that the impoverished country was just "one step away from famine".

More than 21.1 million people -- over 80 percent of Yemen's population -- need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages.

The United Nations says the conflict has killed more than 3,640 people, around half of them civilians, since late March.

- Repairs at Aden airport -

Over the past week, forces loyal to Hadi have recaptured most of Aden from Huthi Shiite rebels and their allies.

The loyalist advances were backed by warplanes from a Saudi-led Arab coalition that began a bombing campaign against the rebels in late March.

Basalmeh told journalists Monday that a UAE technical team had arrived to repair the tower and passenger terminal at Aden international airport, heavily damaged in clashes before rebels were driven out.

On Tuesday, the UAE said without elaborating that an officer in its armed forces was killed in coalition operations, the third Emirati to die in the conflict.

The coalition has never acknowledged putting boots on the ground in Yemen, but loyalists have been reinforced in Aden by forces trained by the coalition.

On Friday, exiled Prime Minister Khaled Bahah declared Aden liberated, although rebel pockets have fought on in some districts.

Rebel bombardment on Sunday killed 57 civilians in the Dar Saad neighbourhood of northern Aden, according to local health chief Al-Khader Laswar.

The rebels have overrun much of the Sunni-majority country, aided by their allies among forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In rebel-controlled Sanaa, a car bombing near a Shiite mosque on Monday claimed by the Islamic State group killed four people, the rebels said.

The Sunni extremists of IS have carried out a string of deadly attacks against Shiite targets in Yemen since March.

The Huthis, who overran Sanaa last September, also lost 11 fighters in other attacks in the capital on Monday night, medics and witnesses said.

Six were killed in a shooting at a checkpoint near the central bank and five more in a car bombing at a police station.

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