Scuds fired at Yemeni capital as war worsens
by Brian Whitaker
Originally published in The Guardian, 7 Apr
YEMEN'S civil war closed in on the rival power centres yesterday as
the Saba news agency said southern forces fired five Scud missiles at the capital Sana'a,
while northern forces advanced on the Socialist stronghold of Aden.
The Saba report said the Scuds did not cause any material
damage or casualties. But an American oil executive, speaking from Sana'a by satellite
telephone, said a Scud missile had hit the presidential palace and another had landed in
an amusement park nearby. South Yemen is known to have six Scud missile launchers.
A north Yemen official said southern warplanes had dropped
their payload at random on Sana'a 'causing damage to some civilian areas'.
Meanwhile a north Yemen military source, quoted by the
Qatari news agency, said northern troops had shot down seven southern warplanes during
battles in the south.
Fighting was reported a few miles from the southern port
of Aden as foreign governments began to evacuate their citizens by sea.
Up to 300 Britons assembled at Steamer Point to be picked
up with other westerners by the French naval ship Jules Verne. They were expected to be
taken to Djibouti, where the British vice-consul from Addis Ababa was preparing to meet
The Russians - who have strong links with Aden - were
sending an Ilyushin-76 to collect their workers and technical experts. They had reportedly
asked for a ceasefire to allow the evacuation.
Southern Socialist forces - controlled by the dismissed
vice-president, Ali Salem al-Baidh - renewed their air and rocket attacks on the capital,
Sana'a, early yesterday, but the damage seems to have been mainly psychological. More
important, northern forces have been making gains on the ground.
It is clear that the rout last Wednesday of one of the
south's strongest artillery brigades, the Basuhib, which had controlled the north-south
highway at Dhamar, was a setback for the Socialists.
Yesterday, two of the north's best units were said to be
encircling Aden. The city was quiet during the evacuation of foreigners, but a French
official reported fighting on the outskirts.
United Nations relief workers said some Somali refugees
had been injured by shelling near al-Khoud camp, 24 miles outside the city.
President Saleh, who was directing operations from
al-Bayda on the old north-south border on Thursday, has embarked on the biggest gamble of
his 15-year presidency.
He faces two dangers if the fighting drags on. One is that
if his troops spend too long in the south he will be vulnerable to attacks by disaffected
elements in the north.
The other is that the threat of foreign intervention could
save the Socialists by forcing a stalemate. The Arab League is meeting in emergency
session today at which Egypt is expected to propose sending an Arab peacekeeping force to
The Egyptian foreign minister, Amre Moussa, said Egypt
would propose sending troops if the Arab League and the Yemeni government approved.
- The US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern
affairs, Robert Pelletreau, who was sent to mediate in Yemen but was caught in the
fighting, left yesterday for neighbouring Oman.