Following the fall of Sana’a to the Houthis, President Hadi relocated to Aden, the southern port city of Yemen and the center of the Southern Mobility Movement. Deciding that, since part of the agreement with the Houthis that led to Hadi’s abdication as president (followed by his entire cabinet) had been violated, the entire agreement was void. Hadi relocated to Aden and declared that he was still the president of Yemen.

There had been a great deal of speculation that former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was involved with the Houthi uprising. As Hadi established himself in the south, Saleh openly declared that he was going to “drive Hadi into the Red Sea.”

In early March, Hadi attempted to dismiss Brigadier General Abdul-Hafez al-Saqqaf, a commander of the Yemeni Army Special Forces. Al-Saqqaf was known to be, or at least Hadi suspected him of being, still loyal to Saleh. Clashes had occurred between al-Saqqaf’s special forces and militias loyal to Hadi, but on March 19, matters began to come to a head.

In the early morning of March 19, al-Saqqaf’s SSF attacked the Yemen airport. Passengers who had already boarded their flights had to retreat to the terminal to avoid gunfire. The pro-Hadi militias deployed tanks and APCs into the streets of Aden, driving al-Saqqaf’s forces out of the airport after a four-hour firefight that saw three of al-Saqqaf’s men killed, and two of the militia.