Saudi-led Airstrikes Against Houthis in Yemen Appear to Be Broadening

AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
Washington, DC

Saudi-led led airstrikes continued to target Iran-backed Houthi targets across Yemen, even after Saudi officials said they were shifting the focus of their operations towards political talks and humanitarian aid.

The New York Times noted that “the coalition carried out airstrikes in several other provinces, suggesting a broadening, rather than a scaling back, of the monthlong Saudi air offensive against Houthi rebels.”

Saudi-led warplanes targeted the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the northern city of Saada, the western city of Taiz,  and the southern city of Aden, reported The Associated Press.

“Air raids, naval shelling and ground fighting shook Yemen on Sunday in some of the most widespread combat since a Saudi-led alliance intervened last month against Iranian-allied Houthi militia who have seized large tracts of the country,” explained Reuters.

“There were at least five air strikes on military positions and an area near the presidential palace compound in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa at dawn on Sunday, while warships pounded an area near the port of the southern city of Aden, residents said,” it added.

Last Tuesday, Saudi officials announced the end of Operation Decisive Storm, a month-long air campaign against Houthis in Yemen, adding that the Sunni coalition would be implementing the next phase of its plan to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Saudi Arabia’s Operation Restoring Hope, focused on political negotiations and humanitarian relief, was expected to begin on Wednesday.

However, Riyadh Yaseen, who serves as the foreign minister for Yemen’s internationally recognized government, said on Sunday that the Saudi-led military operations had not ended.

“There will be no deal with the Houthis whatsoever until they withdraw from areas under their control,” Yaseen said, according to Reuters.

The two warring factions in Yemen appear to be locked in a standoff. Houthi rebels demand a complete halt of Saudi-led attacks while the Saudis want the Houthis to lay down their weapons.

Various media reports described the airstrikes on Sunday as the first since Saudi Arabia said last week it would scale back its campaign against the Houthis and their allies who are fighting armed groups loyal to Yemeni President Hadi on the ground.

However, other news reports indicated that the Saudi-led airstrikes resumed less than 24 hours after the Saudis announced a change in the focus of their operations last Tuesday.

“Despite vague talk of negotiations last week, there was little sign that any of the combatants in Yemen’s conflict were preparing to halt the fighting,” mentioned The New York Times. “Rather, the violence heightened in recent days as it became more apparent that the warring parties were locked in a standoff, with the Saudis insisting that the Houthis retreat and the Houthis demanding an unconditional end to the airstrikes.”

According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict over the past month, including at least 500 civilians.

Iranian warships in the Gulf of Aden suspected of carrying weapons bound for the Houthis reportedly turned back after the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier and missile cruiser in support of seven other American warships in the area.

The U.S. has warned Iran not to send military supplies to Yemen.

Nevertheless, Reuters reported that “Iran’s navy chief said on Sunday that it would keep warships in the Gulf of Aden for at least several months, a stance that could harden U.S. concerns about Tehran trying to supply advanced weapons to the Houthis.”