Saudi Arabia, Regional Allies Invade Yemen with US Backing
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Saudi Arabia and a coalition of its regional allies have launched a military operation in Yemen against the Houthi movement, who deposed the US-backed Yemeni president last month.
Adel al-Jubair, Saudi ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday that a coalition consisting of 10 countries, including the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, (P)GCC, had begun airstrikes at 11 pm GMT.
"The operation is to defend and support the legitimate government of Yemen and prevent the radical Houthi movement from taking over the country," Jubair asserted while speaking to reporters in Washington.
At least 13 civilians were killed in Sana'a during the overnight offensive, civil defense sources told AFP news agency.
Saudi Arabia said that five Muslim countries including Egypt and Pakistan wanted to participate in the Persian Gulf-led military coalition.
Together with Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, they have "expressed desire to participate in the operation" against the Houthis, which the kingdom dubbed "Firmness Storm", Saudi SPA state news agency said.
Saudi Arabia and four other Persian Gulf states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, announced earlier a decision to "answer the call of President Hadi to protect Yemen and his people from the aggression of the Houthi militia".
Military sources said Houthis' positions were hit at various locations in Sana'a, including at al-Daylami airbase and the adjacent international airport in north Sana'a, as well as the presidential complex seized by the movement in January.
Huge explosions were heard in the Yemeni capital as strikes hit the airbase at Sana’a airport and other locations there, 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 on Wednesday.
Three Houthi military commanders, Abdel Khaleq Badereddine Al-Houthi, Yousef Al-Madani and Yousef Al-Fishi have been reportedly killed in the attacks.
The Houthis confirmed in a statement to reporters that Saudi jets hit a military base in Sana'a, known as al-Duleimi. They said they fired anti-aircraft missiles in response, Al Jazeera reported.
Mohamed Al-Bokhaiti, a member of the Houthi political office, called the military action as a declaration of war on Yemen.
Hakim Al Masmari, Yemen Post editor, said that "people are very terrified".
"It's (the bombing) not in any particular location in Sana'a, it's throughout the capital," he said.
Separately, a statement issued in Riyadh in the name of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - the (P)GCC countries without Yemen's neighbor Oman - said they had been asked for help by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's embattled government.
Meanwhile, Arab and US officials told CNN that an interagency US coordination team is in Saudi Arabia.
According to that report, Saudis have not called for any help but are likely to ask for American air support, satellite imagery, and other intelligence.
"We can help with logistics and intelligence and things like that, but there will be no military intervention by the US," a senior administration official said.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said in a statement that US President Barack Obama has "authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to (P)GCC-led military operations".
Following the onset of the war, oil prices rose by around one percent.
In September 2014, Houthis’ Ansarullah movement gained control of Sana'a following a four-day battle with armed forces loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the half-brother of Yemen's former dictator. Supported by government forces, the fighters have managed to flush al-Qaeda militants out of their strongholds in central and southern Yemen.
In recent days, members of Ansarullah movement took control of the southwestern city of Ta'izz, a strategic city between Sana'a and Aden.
On Wednesday, Houthi forces backed by allied army units attacked and captured a big air base about 60 km (37 miles) north of Aden.