Yemen separatists say they've seized the key port of Aden

Sounds of gunfire echoed through the southern port city while smoke and fire could be seen rising from the Jebel Hadid area part of the Crater district that houses the hilltop presidential palace

Yemen conflict: Southern separatists seize control of Aden

A coalition said Sunday that it had launched a strike apparently against southern separatists in Yemen after they seized the presidential palace in the second city of Aden. Preliminary reports indicate that as many as 40 people have been killed and 260 injured.

The violence complicates United Nations' efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the long-impoverished country to the brink of starvation.

"It is heart-breaking that during Eid al-Adha [the Muslim holiday] families are mourning the death of their loved ones instead of celebrating together in peace", said Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

"Our main concern right now is to dispatch medical teams to rescue the injured", she said in a statement on Sunday. The fighting, which trapped civilians in their homes with dwindling water supplies, resumed at dawn on Saturday but has since abated.

"The coalition attacked one of the areas that pose a direct threat to an important government site", Saudi state TV quoted a coalition statement as saying without specifying the target. "It's a bit rich now of the UAE to say the United Nations special envoy needs to sort it out", said Elisabeth Kendall of Oxford University.

"The Coalition's Joint Command is requesting an immediate ceasefire in Yemen's temporary Capital, Aden", the coalition spokesman Col.

The separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates had been fighting as part of the Saudi-led coalition that supports the government but turned against those forces in clashes in the southern city.

There have always been tensions within the coalition between northerners who fled to the south during the Houthis' 2014 advance and southerners who once had their own state and want greater autonomy or outright independence.

Hadi has already been based in Saudi Arabia for five years.

The power struggle for Aden came to a head last week.

The force, known as the Security Belt, overran three military barracks belonging to unionist forces on Saturday and were surrounding the presidential palace, sources close to the force said. Saudi Arabia has been waging war on Yemen since to restore his regime, without success.

The coalition had also called on all military groups to immediately return to their positions and retreat from areas that have been seized over the past few days. Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Hadrami has described the incident as a coup. "Yet to this point in the conflict, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have worked to maintain a relative detent between competing interests in the south", Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, told Reuters. In the first week of August, al-Qaeda undertook seven operations in as many days targeting UAE-backed forces, a significant uptick in attacks.

The internationally recognized government, in turn, has accused the separatist leader of fomenting sedition that would only serve the Houthis and called upon the Saudi and Emirati governments to press the separatists to halt their attacks. An uneasy calm prevailed around the city, they said.

"It's good news for the Houthis and really bad news for the Saudis".

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