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March 27, 2015

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Saudi jets pound Yemen

Saudi jets pound Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, backed by other Gulf States and Egypt, launched air strikes against the Houthi militants in Yemen on Wednesday overnight after the country’s president fled his palace ahead of advancing fighters.
President Barack Obama authorised logistical and intelligence support, National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. The US will take no direct military action, she added.
“The United States strongly condemns the ongoing military action taken by the Houthis against the elected government of Yemen,” Meehan said.
Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir said the air campaign began at 7:00pm Eastern time on Wednesday. “The use of force is always the last resort,” al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington DC on Wednesday. Al-Jubeir said that nine other countries had joined a coalition to prevent the Houthis from taking over Yemen, but did not name them.
“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling and from facing any dangers from an outside militia,” al-Jubeir said. “We have a situation where you have a militia group that is now in control.”
The air strikes come after reports that Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close US ally, had fled his palace in Aden ahead of advancing Houthis. A senior unnamed Yemeni official told the NBC News that he was still in the country.
The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, saying they would answer a request from Hadi for help. Egypt, in a statement through the state media, also announced its political and military support for Yemen.
Two American officials told NBC News Saudi air strikes were conducted near Sanaa on Wednesday. The Houthis said in a statement to reporters that Saudi jets were hitting a military base, known as al-Duleimi, in Sanaa. They said they fired anti-aircraft missiles in response.
The escalating situation prompted the US to withdraw its advisers and intelligence officials from the country over the weekend.Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia mobilised 150,000 troops and some 100 fighter jets to rout fighters that have taken over swathes of neighboring Yemen, a security adviser to the kingdom told NBC News.
The adviser, Nawaf Obaid, did not say whether any of Saudi troops had crossed the border into Yemen as part of the kingdom’s military intervention to arrest Yemen’s rapidly deteriorating crisis. But he said Saudi Arabia was in “complete control” of Yemeni airspace after launching air strikes overnight and started implementing a no-fly zone.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Qatar — were lending air support to the Saudi intervention with 115 additional fighter planes, Obaid said. Egypt and Pakistan were part of the broader coalition, he added.Secretary of State John Kerry commended the work of the coalition and underlined the US support for the effort — including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical help — in talks with his counterparts in the region, a senior US official said.
The escalation comes after Houthi rebels captured al-Anad airbase near the port city of Aden earlier in the week — an installation formerly used by the US and Europe in the fight against al-Qaeda — as part of their power grab in the Arab nation.
While reports swirled that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a close US ally, had fled the country, those claims were denied by his nephew and key adviser Mohammed Hadi.
Saudi Arabia said strikes had destroyed compounds and military installations used by the Houthis and forces loyal to their ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Air strikes were reported deep inside Yemen, including in capital Sanaa where homes near the international airport were flattened.
An employee of the five-star Mercure hotel in the key port city of Aden told NBC News that he was hearing firing all around the building and called the situation a mess. “We don’t know who is in control,” said the worker who asked that his name not be used.
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Kuwait said it was necessary to intervene in Yemen after Houthi rebels threatened the southern port of Aden, at a meeting ahead of an Arab summit.Both countries had expressed support for Saudi-led air strikes overnight against the rebels.
The Houthi offensive “obliged all of us to quickly respond and take the required measures to restore peace and security,” Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah said.His Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry said, “It was necessary for a coalition of Arab states to answer the call of the Yemeni president,” referring to a demand from President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi for military intervention.
Sabah called for a resumption of negotiations in the troubled country that has been mired in a complex conflict involving pro-Hadi forces, the Shiite Houthi rebels, Sunni tribesmen, al-Qaeda and forces loyal to ousted strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The foreign ministers meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh came ahead of a summit over the weekend in which Arab League members will consider forming a joint military force
Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi declared his full support for the Saudi-led air strikes againts Houthi rebels in Yemen.“I affirm complete support” for the campaign, he said at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers. “It is an operation against targets belonging to the Houthis who committed a coup.”
Meanwhile, Turkey could provide “logistical” support for Saudi Arabia’s operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “We support Saudi Arabia’s intervention,” Erdogan said in an interview.
“Turkey may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation,” he added, without giving further details.Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen and urged all the countries in the region to stay out of their neighbour’s internal affairs.
“Interference by foreign militaries is very dangerous and deepens the crisis,” Rouhani said, during a phone call with French President Francois Hollande.He insisted the “solution to Yemen’s problems is not military,” the presidency said.
Saudi Arabia’s air strikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen triggered fury from Iran on Thursday, with officials warning the military action threatened to spill over into other countries.During a separate telephone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Rouhani referred to “this morning’s military aggression and condemned all military intervention in the internal affairs of independent nations,” his website said.
Iraq’s foreign minister opposed Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, saying military intervention was not a solution. Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he supported a “peaceful” approach to Yemen.
“We are not with the strikes, and we are against foreign intervention,” he said ahead of an Arab foreign ministers meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned of regional risks from fighting in Yemen and said there could be no military solution, after Saudi warplanes bombed rebels and sparked Iranian warnings.
“The latest events in Yemen have dramatically worsened the already fragile situation in the country and risk having serious regional consequences,” Mogherini, the former Italian foreign minister, said in a statement.“I’m convinced that military action is not a solution,” Mogherini said.
The advance of Houthi rebels and air strikes on President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi’s compound in Aden were unacceptable steps towards escalating an already polarised situation, she said, adding that they had “triggered Saudi-led air strikes.”

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