الأربعاء , يونيو 17 2020

Yemen urges swift end to air strikes

Yemen’s foreign minister has said air strikes being carried out by a Saudi-led coalition against Shia Houthi rebels should end as soon as possible.

Riad Yassin told the BBC a “short, sharp” campaign was needed to weaken the rebels, who have forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.

Fresh overnight air raids reportedly targeted a number of Houthi positions.

Rebel leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has vowed not to surrender to what he called the “unjustified aggression”.

Regional Shia power Iran, who Mr Yassin accused of backing the rebels, denounced the US-backed air strikes as an attempt “to foment civil war in Yemen or disintegrate the country”.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has said it will “do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling”.

‘Graveyard of invaders’

Mr Hadi took refuge in the second city of Aden last month after fleeing Sanaa, where he had been under house arrest since the rebels took full control of the capital in January.

He is believed to have left Aden by boat on Wednesday after rebel fighters and allied army units loyal to ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh captured a nearby air base and his palace was attacked by warplanes.

Mr Hadi is expected to attend an Arab League summit at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh this weekend.

In an interview with the BBC at the summit, Mr Yassin said no-one was happy about the intervention by the Saudi-led coalition, which includes four other Gulf Arab states, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

But he added: “I think if they completed their mission in the coming few days or few hours it will be stopped. It is a short, sharp campaign which really we have been forced to request.”

Yemen's President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is greeted at a Riyadh air base by Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman (26 March 2015)

President Hadi was greeted by Saudi Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a Riyadh air base

Map showing Houthi control and al-Qaeda area of operation

Mr Yassin said he did not know if Arab leaders would approve a ground offensive, which coalition members have said they are prepared to launch if the raids fail to halt the rebels’ advance and force them to negotiate.

There was another night of heavy bombardment on Thursday, with warplanes hitting rebel positions in Sanaa and the Houthis’ northern heartland of Saada province.

Military officials said some of the strikes were aimed at the Houthi leadership.

Since the air campaign began on Wednesday night, at least 39 civilians have been killed, health ministry officials say. At least six children under the age of 10 are among the dead.

People have been fleeing the capital, with long queues at petrol stations, and many shops and firms have shut.

Yemenis gather beside a burning vehicle allegedly belonged to Houthi fighters following clashes with tribal militiamen loyal to Yemeni president Hadi in the southern port city of Aden on 26 March, 2015.

There have been clashes between rebel fighters and militiamen loyal to President Hadi in Aden

Shia rebels, known as Houthis, hold up their weapons to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes, as they chant slogans during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen

The Houthis have been protesting against the Saudi-led campaign

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan are contributing aircraft to the coalition, while Egypt, Jordan and Sudan were ready to take part in any ground offensive, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday.

The channel also claimed that Pakistan was prepared to send troops, but on Friday the government in Islamabad said it had not decided whether to heed a request for military support.

In a defiant televised address on Thursday night, Abdul Malik al-Houthi called on all Yemenis to prepare for an invasion.

“These criminal, collaborative powers will discover that they committed a huge error with this aggression,” he said.

“If any armies come to occupy, the Yemeni people will prove once again that Yemen is the graveyard of invaders.”

The Houthis have said their aim is to replace Mr Hadi’s government, which they accuse of being corrupt, and to implement the outcomes of the National Dialogue that was convened when Mr Saleh was forced to hand over power in 2011 following mass protests.

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Yemen – who is fighting whom?

Houthi fighters in Sanaa (25 March 2015)

The Houthis have said their aim is to replace Mr Hadi’s government, which they accuse of corruption

The Houthis: Zaidi Shia-led rebels from the north, who seized control of Sanaa last year and have since been expanding their control

President Hadi: Fled to Saudi Arabia after rebel forces advanced on his stronghold in the southern city of Aden

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: Seen by the US as the most dangerous offshoot of al-Qaeda, AQAP opposes both the Houthis and President Hadi.

Islamic State: A Yemeni affiliate of IS has recently emerged, which seeks to eclipse AQAP

Yemen crisis: An Iranian-Saudi battleground?

Yemen: Waiting for the war

Meeting the Houthis – and their enemies

The rise of Yemen’s Houthi rebels

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