"The government announces the liberation of the province of Aden on the first day of Eid al-Fitr which falls on July 17," Bahah said on his Facebook page, referring to the Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. "We will work to restore life in Aden and all the liberated cities, to restore water and electricity," he added. Earlier this week, the loyalist forces launched Operation Golden Arrow against Iran-backed rebels who seized control of much of Aden in March, forcing the government into exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The counteroffensive was carried out by southern militiamen of the Popular Resistance, backed by  reinforcements freshly trained and equipped in Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich kingdom leads a coalition of Arab countries which has been waging an air campaign against the Huthi Shiite rebels and renegade troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Aden was President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's last refuge after he fled the capital Sanaa earlier this year as the rebels took over the government and launched an offensive in which they seized much of the rest of the country. Swathes of the city have been reduced to rubble by the four months of ferocious fighting.

The UN has declared Yemen a level-3 humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale. More than 21.1 million people - over 80 percent of Yemen's population - need aid, with 13 million facing food shortages, while access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people.

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