View of the city of Taiz, Yemen. File Photo by Ai@ce/Flickr
SANAA, Yemen, March 22 (UPI) -- Yemen was brought closer to potential war as Houthi rebel fighters made crucial advancements in the country's third-largest city, Taiz, including seizing its international airport.
The Houthi rebels took control of parts of the city of Taiz after fighting with loyalists of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, officials announced Sunday. The rebels also reportedly took full control of a military airbase in Taiz, which is about 115 miles away from Aden.
The advancements bring Yemen closer to a full military confrontation between rebels and forces loyal to Hadi. Control of Taiz is viewed as a key strategic advantage.
Mohammed al-Basha, a Spokesman for Yemen's embassy in Washington D.C., said the country is nearing a full-scale war.
"I hate to say this, but I'm hearing the loud and clear beating of the drums of war in Yemen," al-Basha said on Twitter.
President Hadi is currently hiding in the southern port city of Aden after the capital Sana'a was taken over by rebels. The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting over the situation in Yemen on Sunday, which was requested by Hadi.
Roughly 100 special forces troops, inlcuding Navy SEALs and Delta Force Army troops, will withdraw from the al-Anad air base in Yemen. The United States has not confirmed the withdrawal.
The withdrawal means there will be no U.S. troops remaining in Yemen. Al-Qaida-led attacks in the area on Friday may have inspired the move, but the rebels have been held back by the Yemeni army. The Islamic State also blew up two mosques in the region earlier in the week.
The American troops were training Yemeni soldiers to lead attacks against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen.
Thor Benson contributed to this report.