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Aden flies the flag in tribute to the UAE

ADEN // The streets of Aden are filled with the flag of the UAE – fluttering above checkpoints, flying from cars, and draped over homes, businesses and government buildings.

In the weeks since Houthi rebels were driven from Yemen’s southern port city, there has been an outpouring of gratitude from residents for Emirati troops.

“The Emirates’ soldiers were in the frontlines of the battle against the Houthis, and some of them were killed in Aden. They did this only to help us in our war, that is why we raise the flag of UAE in the whole city of Aden,” said Ali Al Haddad, the Yemeni commander of the guards of the presidential palace in Aden.

Mr Hadi fled Sanaa in February after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from the north launched a takeover of the capital. They then drove south to Aden, where Mr Hadi had fled, forcing the president into exile.

In June, after weeks of Saudi-led air strikes and bitter street battles, popular resistance militias allied to Mr Hadi, boosted by loyalist fighters trained by the UAE and Saudi Arabia and hundreds of Emirati soldiers, started to beat back the Houthis and their allies.

The UAE also supplied the Southern Resistance with modern military vehicles and air drops of ammunition, kickstarting a counteroffensive that has driven the Houthis from Yemen’s southern provinces.

As the residents of Aden start to pick up the pieces in their badly damaged city, they have continued to express their thanks to the UAE forces who fought “shoulder to shoulder” with the Southern Resistance, Mr Al Haddad said.

The support for the UAE troops has been bolstered by the sacrifice of Emirati servicemen. Seven UAE soldiers have been killed during Operation Restoring Hope, the Arab campaign to return Mr Hadi’s government to power.

That is why people in Aden raise the flag of UAE, said Ahmed Ghanem, a leader of a liberation front in Abyan province.

The Houthis and their allies, including sections of the army loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, “killed us everywhere in the south”, said Mr Ghanem. “With the help of the UAE, we could defeat the Houthi rebels.”

Along the main road towards Aden, the UAE flag flew at every one of the more than 150 checkpoints the southern Al Dhalae governorate. The checkpoints were manned by resistance fighters allied with the UAE. The flag was accompanied by the flag of South Yemen, a country until 1990 when the north and south merged. Aden is the hub of a movement calling for the south of Yemen to separate from the north.

Within Aden there is such a demand for the UAE flag that several street vendors have taken to selling them.

After suffering so much during Houthi attempts to seize the city, residents said they viewed the Emiratis as a liberating force. Many who fled the Houthi shelling are now starting to return.

Abeer Mustafa, 23, a student at Aden University, said the Emiratis had brought a degree of security to Aden. “I feel safe in Aden because the Emirates’ forces are still inside Aden, I think if the Emirates’ forces left Aden, the Houthi rebels will attack Aden again,” she said.

She said that the UAE forces have not just been welcomed for their military role, but also for providing Aden’s residents with humanitarian aid.

The Emirates Red Crescent has sent several ships to Aden loaded with relief supplies, which have been distributed by the UAE’s soldiers. Most of Aden’s residents have little faith in the Yemeni government’s ability to restore city, which suffered severe damage in the fighting. Instead, they hope the UAE will help them rebuild.

“We, as southern people, do not have government to rely on it to build our city. The only government that helped us during the last months is the Emirates government, and now we are waiting for it to reconstruct Aden,” Ms Mustafa added.

In Aden, you can find people who disagree about the partition of Yemen, but you cannot find even one who denies the role of UAE in helping the southern people, said Abdulaziz Al Shiekh, spokesman for the Southern Resistance.

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(via The National)