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Saudi air strikes on Yemen have "dramatically worsened" the situation there

The beleaguered Middle Eastern state is facing civil war.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

SAUDI ARABIA HAS carried out air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, launching an operation by a regional coalition to save the government of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

Pro-Iran Hezbollah has called on Saudi Arabia to “immediately stop the aggression” after the air strikes were launched.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said:

The latest events in Yemen have dramatically worsened the already fragile situation in the country and risk having serious regional consequences.
I’m convinced that military action is not a solution.

Stepping up

Mideast Yemen People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen Source: AP/Press Association Images

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US announced that a coalition of 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, had been set up to protect the Yemeni government.

President Barack Obama has authorised the “provision of logistical and intelligence support” to the military operation.

Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE along with Saudi Arabia said they “have decided to answer the call of President Hadi to protect Yemen and his people from the aggression of the (Shiite) Houthi militia”.

Saudi envoy Adel al-Jubeir did not name the other countries involved in the coalition.

Saudi SPA state news agency said Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan had all “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the rebels, which the kingdom dubbed “Firmness Storm”.

US Yemen Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Al-Jubeir Source: AP/Press Association Images

Al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington that the operation “is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country”.

“The Royal Saudi Air Force has taken out the Houthi air defences and destroyed numerous Houthi fighter planes,” a Saudi advisor said, adding that air force “has pretty much secured most of the Yemeni air space and is now consolidating a wide no-fly zone.”

Military sources said the raids had hit rebel positions at various locations in Sanaa, including at al-Daylami airbase and the adjacent international airport in north Sanaa, as well as the presidential complex seized by the rebels in January.

Huge explosions were heard in Sanaa as strikes hit the airbase at Sanaa airport and other locations in the capital, an AFP correspondent reported.

In the south, residents reported hearing large blasts at Al-Anad main airbase, north of Aden, which was seized by anti-government forces Wednesday.

Under threat

Mideast Yemen Source: AP/Press Association Images

The Saudi advisor said his country’s defence minister warned the son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, “who is commanding the attack on Aden that his forces face ‘obliteration’ if they continue their push toward Aden.”

Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following a year of nationwide protests, is accused of allying with the rebels, relying on the loyalty of many army units that he built during his three-decade rule.

Acting foreign minister Riyad Yassin had warned in Egypt that the fall of the second city Aden would mean the “start of civil war” as he drummed up Arab military support for Hadi.

Amerian Enterprise Institute Source: American Enterprise Institute

Aides to Hadi said that the Western-backed president had been taken to a safe haven “within Aden”, where he fled last month.

Washington said it had been in touch with Hadi and that he was no longer at his residence, but it was unable to say where he was.

Yemen has been gripped by growing turmoil since the Shiite Houthi rebels launched a power takeover in Sanaa in February.

The strife has raised fears Yemen could be torn apart by a proxy war between Shiite Iran, accused of backing the rebels, and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which supports Hadi.

Dozens of people have been killed as the Houthis backed by troops allied to former strongman Saleh, have clashed with pro-Hadi forces as they push southwards.

Dagger 

Yassin warned that domination by Iran would be a “dagger in the side of Saudi Arabia and the rest of countries of the Gulf”.

His comments came after the Houthis said they had captured the defence minister in their push southwards deep into Lahj province, adjacent to Aden.

General Mahmud al-Subaihi, who escaped house arrest in Sanaa this month, had been seen as a vital ally of Hadi in charge of organising Aden’s defence lines.

© – AFP, 2015

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