The Yemeni army has recruited 4,800 southern fighters following a presidential decision to integrate loyalist militiamen who helped push Iran-backed rebels out of second city Aden, a military official said Friday.
"This brigade has 4,800 fighters, including soldiers and officers. Most of the recruits are former fighters of the Popular Resistance" pro-government militia, Colonel Fadel Mohammed Hassan told AFP at a military base in Aden.
The majority of the recruits come from Aden province, where forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi pushed back Iran-backed rebels last month, aided by Saudi-led Arab coalition air power.
The Salman Decisiveness Brigade is named after the Saudi king, whose country has led the campaign in support of Hadi since late March.
An AFP correspondent in Aden this week saw new recruits carrying out training drills, dust rising above them as they exercised.
A sign on the base's front gate carried a poster of Gulf leaders, and a sign reading: "registration is closed."
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"All members of the resistance have been taken in without any exemptions" following orders from Hadi, said Hassan.
In March, Shiite Huthi rebels and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh advanced on Aden, in which Hadi had taken refuge after escaping house arrest in Sanaa.
Hadi later fled to Riyadh.
Bolstered by heavy weaponry and Gulf troops as well as Yemeni fighters trained in Saudi Arabia, loyalists have retaken Aden and four other southern provinces and are currently fighting for control of Yemen's third city, Taez.
The Red Cross warned Friday of the "deteriorating" situation in Taez, speaking of "indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas" and destruction of essential infrastructure.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the health situation there is "particularly dire" and that a handful of hospitals still functioning are having to deal with large numbers of casualties.
"During the past two weeks, paramedics have had to put themselves in harm’s way, working their way through heavy ground fighting, airstrikes and snipers to reach the wounded. This is unacceptable," said the ICRC's acting head in Yemen, Kedir Awol Omar.