Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes continue to target Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, despite the rebels’ call for peace talks, according to media reports.
“Despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement earlier this week that a coalition would wind down the nearly month-old military campaign it has been waging in Yemen, warplanes have been hitting areas under Houthi control Thursday,” reports National Public Radio (NPR). “It’s now very unclear when peace talks that were mentioned earlier this week might occur.”
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced the end of its Operation Decisive Storm, a nearly month-long air campaign against Houthi targets in Yemen, adding that its Sunni coalition is implementing the next phase of its plan to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia’s Operation Restoring Hope began on Wednesday. The new initiative is intended to “protect civilians and to continue to fight terrorism in Yemen,” reported Saudi-run Al Arabiya.
CNN reports that Saudi-led airstrikes resumed less than 24 hours after the new operation was announced.
“The Saudis had said that although strikes were ending, they would use force against Houthi movements inside the poor Gulf country,” notes NPR.
“Aid workers say little has changed since Saudi Arabia announced the start of a new, supposedly more humanitarian-focused operation,” it adds. “Food is running out, electricity is scarce, hospitals are overwhelmed and street fighting continues in places like the port city of Aden between rival factions.”
NPR reports that the Saudis are willing to engage in U.N.-brokered talks only if the Houthis lay down their weapons.
On the other hand, Mohammed Abdulsalam, a Houthi spokesmen, wrote on Facebook that the U.N.-sponsored talks should resume, “but only after a complete halt of [Saudi-led] attacks.”
“The Saudis say the goal now is to get to UN-facilitated talks — but only if the Houthi rebels lay down their weapons,” explains NPR. “The Houthis, which Saudi and the U.S. accuse of being an Iranian proxy, say they also want talks but only if Saudi Arabia stops bombing Yemen.”
A Saudi-led Sunni coalition began launching airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on March 26. The U.S. has been providing intelligence and logistics assistance to the coalition.
Houthi rebels have formed an alliance with military units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On the ground, the Houthis and their allies are fighting armed groups who support the internationally recognized Yemeni President, a key U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda.
Houthi rebels forced President Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis say they want to restore the Hadi government.
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83.