Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Saudi launches strikes on Yemen rebels

AFP, SANA’A

A Yemeni man sits among the debris at the site of a Saudi air strike against Huthi rebels, near Sana’a Airport, in Sana’a yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Saudi warplanes yesterday bombed Huthi rebels in Yemen, launching an Arab military intervention in support of its embattled president that regional rival Iran warned was a “dangerous” move.

The rebels and their allies within the armed forces had been closing in on main southern city Aden, where Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has been holed up since fleeing the rebel-controlled capital, Sana’a, last month.

Their advance had raised fears in Saudi Arabia that the Shiite minority rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni-majority neighbor and take it into the orbit of Shiite Iran.

Iran condemned the Saudi-led intervention against its coreligionists as “a dangerous step” that violated “international responsibilities and national sovereignty.”

Huge explosions were heard in Sana’a as warplanes pounded an air base adjacent to the international airport and other locations, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported.

At least 14 civilians were killed when seven homes near the air base were reduced to rubble, a civil defense source said.

At daybreak hundreds of families streamed out of the capital seeking the relative safety of the provinces.

“I am leaving with my family — Sana’a is no longer safe,” said one resident, who gave his name only as Mohammed, as he piled his belongings into a minibus in the Bani Huwat neighborhood.

In the south, residents reported hearing explosions at the huge al-Anad air base, north of Aden, which was seized by anti-government forces on Wednesday.

Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir said the operation had begun with air strikes, but that the kingdom and its allies stood ready to do “whatever it takes” to protect Hadi’s government.

Al-Jubeir said that the kingdom had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies, for the military operation to defend Hadi’s government.

Washington said that US President Barack Obama had authorized the “provision of logistical and intelligence support” for the campaign.

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

He said that for the moment the action was confined to airstrikes, but that other military assets were being mobilized and that the coalition “would do whatever it takes.”

The official Saudi Press Agency said Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan had “expressed desire to participate in the operation.” Egypt, Jordan and Sudan confirmed they were joining the campaign.

Four Egyptian warships passed through the Suez Canal yesterday en route for the Gulf of Aden, canal officials said. Egypt said it stood ready to provide ground troops too if necessary.

Pakistan said it had received a Saudi request to participate, but that it was still being “examined.” Morocco voiced support, but made no mention of any involvement by its military.

US Secretary of State John Kerry held a conference call with Gulf ministers to discuss the operation and “commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Huthis” a senior US official said.

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