LIVE BLOG: Saudi and Arab allies bomb Houthi positions in Yemen

#YemenWar

Yemeni civilians search the rubble of buildings destroyed during Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport

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Last update: 
June 19 Jun 2018 10:48 UTC
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Round-up of events of overnight:

- Global oil prices rise by 6 percent as Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies launch sweeping military operation

- Saudi officials considering deploying as many as 150,000 troops and 100 warplanes to operation that includes Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain

- US providing “logistical and intelligence support” to the Saudi-led forces

 

Obama calls Saudi king on 'collective goal' of Yemen stability

President Barack Obama offered US support for air strikes led by Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies on rebel camps in Yemen during a phone call with King Salman, the White House said Friday.

"The President and King Salman agreed that our collective goal is to achieve lasting stability in Yemen through a negotiated political solution facilitated by the United Nations and involving all parties as envisioned in the GCC Initiative," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.

US military rescues two Saudi pilots off Yemen coast: Official

The US military has rescued two Saudi pilots who were ejected from their jets off Yemen's coast, as the kingdom launched air strikes on rebel camps in its violence-wracked neighbor, officials said Friday.

"US military assets from USCENTCOM and USAFRICOM recovered the two KSA crew members at approximately 5:20 pm (2120 GMT)" Thursday, a US defense official said, indicating the rescue took place at Saudi Arabia's request.

Britain offers Saudis support over Yemen strikes

Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday offered Britain's "firm political support" to Saudi Arabia over its air strikes on rebel camps in Yemen.

Cameron and Saudi Arabia's King Salman spoke for the first time since the monarch came to the throne in January, with the prime minister giving his clear backing to the action.

"The prime minister emphasised the UK's firm political support for the Saudi action in Yemen, noting that it was right to do everything possible to deter Huthi aggression, to support President Hadi and his legitimate government," said a spokeswoman for Cameron's Downing Street office. 

"They both expressed concern that Huthi action would lead to an escalation in terrorism and extremism" enabling Al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists a foothold in Yemen, which would pose a "serious threat to both our nations".

"He reiterated that Britain will do all it can to support the Saudis to stop that from happening and offered to provide further UK support," which the monarch welcomed.

Cameron also urged King Salman to put "strong non-military pressure" on the Huthis, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh - suspected of being allied with the rebels - and Iran "to pull back from the brink and engage in the political process in good faith".

The spokeswoman added: "Finally, the prime minister reassured his majesty that while negotiations on Iran's nuclear capabilities are proceeding, the UK would never agree a deal that did not stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon."

Nasrallah delivers fiery tirade against Saudi Arabia

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a scathing speech directed at Saudi Arabia and its allies for their military operation in Yemen.

“The House of Saud’s failures in Yemen and its loss of control over the country is the real reason for their aggression against Yemen,” he declared.

He drew a comparison between the speed and readiness with which Operation Decisive Storm was implemented, to the non-reaction the same Arab countries had toward the Palestinian people and their struggle against Israeli occupation.

“The Palestinian people did not feel any decisive storm, not even a decisive breeze,” Nasrallah said, mocking the operation’s name.

The Hezbollah leader then listed “three excuses” Saudi Arabia justified its intervening role in Yemen. The first was on the basis to return Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi back to his position, although Nasrallah pointed out that no war was waged on Tunisia or Egypt when Ben Ali and Mubarak respectively were ousted.

The second excuse, Nasrallah continued, was that Saudi Arabia felt threatened by the new events and developments unfolding in Yemen. “This is Bush’s religion!” Nasrallah exclaimed, referring to the policies of former US president George W Bush embarking on a war based on events beyond his control.

The third excuse, which Nasrallah called “the biggest lie in all of these justifications” was how Saudi Arabia feared Iranian hegemony and perceived Yemen as under the direct influence of Iran.

Nasrallah went on to assert that Iran supports resistance movements against Israel that the bigger Arab countries have ignored, such as the Hamas movement and Hezbollah. At the same time, he rejected that Iran controlled these movements, stating that they provide military and financial support and do not impose their orders.

He lashed out against Saudi Arabia, calling its leaders as lazy fools, and blamed the oil-rich kingdom for the creation and financing of the Islamic State, accusing Prince Bandar as their financial backer. He also accused Saudi Arabia of funding and backing the occupiers against their own Arab brothers.

 

Egypt obliges Yemeni visitors to obtain pre-travel visas

Yemenis seeking to visit Egypt will have to obtain visas from Egyptian embassies abroad before their arrival to the country, an Egyptian security official said Friday.

Egypt's Interior Ministry has instructed all ports and airports nationwide to bar entry to Yemenis coming from any county unless they had obtained visas beforehand from an Egyptian embassy abroad, the source, requesting anonymity, told the Anadolu Agency.

According to the source, the new regulation – which doesn't apply to Yemenis with Egyptian spouses or mothers – went into effect Thursday.

Saleh calls for Yemen ceasefire, talks in UAE

Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is close to Shiite Houthi rebels in the country, called Friday for a ceasefire and the resumption of UN-brokered dialogue between warring parties.

In a statement, Saleh urged a "simultaneous" halt in military operations in Yemen by a Saudi-led Arab coalition and by the rebels, and for dialogue to take place in the United Arab Emirates.

All members of the Arab coalition contributed to the operation but "Emirati air forces participated intensively," spokesman General Ahmed Assiri told reporters in Riyadh.

Houthis using Yemenis as 'human shields': Saudi official

A spokesman for a Saudi-led, anti-Houthi coalition said on Friday that Shiite Houthi militants were using civilians as "human shields."

Coalition forces "are doing everything possible to halt the Houthi advance on [the southern city of] Aden," Saudi commander Ahmed al-Asiri said at a press conference held on an airbase in Saudi capital Riyadh.

Al-Asiri urged Yemeni civilians to steer clear of Houthi sites and positions, claiming that Houthi militants were using them as "human shields."

"Our first priority is the safety of Yemeni civilians, which is why we're urging them to avoid Houthi militant concentrations," he said.

Riyadh said the strikes were in response to calls by embattled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for military intervention to "save the people [of Yemen] from the Houthi militias."

At least 39 civilians have been killed in the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis and their allies, officials at the rebel-controlled health ministry in Sanaa said.

Yemen strikes intensify: Witness

5 civilians killed in shelling by pro-Saleh forces in Lahj

Five civilians were killed and several others injured on Friday when forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh shelled residential districts in the southern city of Al-Houta, local medical sources have said.

"Five civilians were killed by shelling that targeted homes in Al-Houta [Lahj province's largest city] and wounded several others who have since been taken to hospital," medical sources told the Anadolu Agency.

According to eyewitnesses, several districts of Al-Houta came under intense artillery fire by pro-Saleh forces.

Witnesses say the bombardment began after 20 Shiite Houthi militants were killed in an ambush by anti-Houthi gunmen in Lahj's Al-Wahat district.

Video: The crisis in Yemen explained

Pro-Saleh forces shell Yemen's Ad Dali city, killing civilians: Witnesses

Forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh on Friday shelled a residential district in the southern city of Ad Dali, leaving a number of dead and wounded, eyewitnesses have said.

The shelling targeted several residential neighborhoods in both the northern and southern regions of the city, eyewitnesses told the Anadolu Agency.

Medical sources told AA that the shelling had led to "an indeterminate number of casualties," which had since been transferred to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Residents of Ad Dali's southern Al-Aslaf district told AA that the shelling had destroyed an entire home, the injured inhabitants of which had been transferred to a hospital in critical condition.

Meanwhile, residents of Ad Dali's northern Al-Wabh district told AA that the shelling had left two people dead and several wounded, one of whom was in critical condition.

Ad Dali residents have embarked on a mass departure from their homes due to intense shelling, amid fears of continued bombardment.

Yemen's Hadi arrives in Egypt for Arab League summit

Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Egypt Friday for a weekend Arab League summit at which his country takes centre stage amid Saudi-led coalition attacks on Houthi rebels.

State television broadcast footage of Hadi's arrival at the summit venue, the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, where he was greeted by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On Thursday, Hadi flew to the capital of Saudi Arabia, which the same day launched air strikes against the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen at his request.

He will attend the two-day Arab League summit beginning Saturday that is expected to focus on creating an Arab military force, a project that has been given greater impetus by the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

 

Five Yemenis speak to MEE about Saudi-led strikes

Middle East Eye interviewed five Yemenis about their views on the Saudi-led air strikes targeting Houthi militiamen and their allies, namely forces loyal to former president Saleh. You can hear the recorded interview here:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/death-closer-us-ever-713344936

The five are:

-Basma Qassim, a 20-year sociology student who grew up in New York and now lives in the southern port city of Aden.

-Abdulkader al-Guneid, a physician and activist from the central city of Taiz where there have been mass anti-Houthi protests.

-Hussain al-Bukhaiti, 20, a pro-Houthi activist in Sanaa.

-Ammar al-Aulaqi, 34, a filmmaker from Sanaa.

-Sarah Jamal, a 27-year-old researcher and sociologist living in Sanaa.

Yemeni FM warns his country could fall under Iranian control

Turkish and Saudi leaders discuss Yemen conflict

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed by phone the military offensive against Houthi militants in Yemen with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Erdogan said the international community was concerned over the events taking place in Yemen and said the unity, safety and stability of the country was at risk, presidential sources in Ankara said on Friday. 

Salman shared information with the Turkish President about the military operation and airstrikes launched by Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies against Houthi positions in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Turkish foreign minister has ruled out military support for the Saudi Arabian-backed operation.

During a televised interview Friday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "We said we can give every kind of support, including intelligence, but not military support."

"Houthis are a small group. With foreign support, they took over Yemen," Cavusoglu said, adding: "The most concrete solution is a political one. There is no need for a sectarian war. There is no need for Iran to face off against Arab countries."

In an interview with French network FRANCE 24 on Thursday, Erdogan said that Ankara may consider providing "logistical support" to the mission.



(AA)

Yemeni scholar Farea Al-Muslimi speaks on 2nd day of Saudi strikes

21 killed as Yemen tribes fight Houthi militia in Lahj

At least 21 Yemeni Shiite rebels were killed Friday when residents in a tribal southern region opened fire at their vehicles, a local official and witnesses told AFP.

The Houthi rebels were travelling in three vehicles from Lahj province towards Aden, the southern stronghold of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, when they were ambushed.

The attack took place just 15 kilometres (about nine miles) north of Aden, where tensions were high on Friday as the rebels clashed with the "popular committees" -- an anti-Houthi militia controlling parts of the city, security officials and residents said.

Yemen carrier suspends flights

Yemen's national carrier declared on Thursday the suspension of its flights until Sunday.

The suspension was decided for the protection of passengers and in the light of deteriorating security conditions in Yemen, the official Yemeni news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.

It is not clear whether Sanaa International Airport is ready to operate.

A military base adjacent to the airport was targeted by fighter jets belonging to states allied to Saudi Arabia early on Thursday.

Kerry commends Saudi-led strikes

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and a senior Iranian official about the crisis in Yemen on Thursday, a US official said.

Kerry spoke via conference call with foreign ministers from the GCC about the situation in Yemen.

"He commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Houthis and noted the United States' support for those coalition efforts, including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Houthi targets," said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke. 

The ministers, while expressing support for political negotiations as the best way to resolve the crisis, also defended the Saudi campaign in the conflict-torn country against the as the Houthis have resorted to the use of force, according to Rathke. 

"There is no purely military solution to the situation in Yemen," Rathke said. "However, we also understand the Saudis' concerns, especially given the Houthis' failure to, you know, engage meaningfully in the political dialogue process."

Kerry also met one-on-one with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Lausanne to discuss the Yemeni crisis. The Swiss city is currently hosting negotiations between world powers and Iran on and its controversial nuclear programme. 

The situation in Yemen is not affecting those talks, Rathke said.

Coalition air strikes continue to pound Sanaa, Aden

Air strikes in Sanaa continued to rock the night, as the Arab coalition against the militant Houthi group sustained its military campaign in Yemen.

The strikes have targeted military bases under the control of the Houthis and their allies. Witnesses told AFP that anti-aircraft fire erupted in response to coalition air strikes against a camp at al-Istiqbal, at Sanaa’s western entrance.

The al-Samaa military base, north of Sanaa, was also hit by air strikes. Al-Samaa is believed to be where army units take orders from Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who is accused of allying with the Houthis against the government.

Strikes were also reported in Aden, south of Yemen as two air raids targeted al-Anad air base, which Houthi rebels had seized on Wednesday.

Military sources said that another base allied with the Houthis in Qatabah, around 120 kilometres north of Aden, was also targeted by the coalition. 

Erdogan: Turkey may provide "logistical support" to Saudi-led operation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told France 24 channel that his country backs the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen.

“We support Saudi Arabia’s intervention,” he said. “Turkey may consider providing logistical support based on the evolution of the situation.”

Erdogan also called on the Houthis and to cede power in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Iranian ambassador in Kuwait Ali Reza Enayati said that his country rejected the military operation, and that it will only serve to further complicate matters in the Arab world.

Enayati said that the Arab coalition air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen would have a “negative effect on the region.”

Saudi commander: Air strikes are "successful"

Saudi Arabia has declared that the military campaign against the Houthi militant group will continue as long as necessary.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Aseri, the commander of the Saudi-led operation, told a press conference on Thursday that the operation against the Houthis aims to prevent the militants from harming the Yemeni people and neighbouring countries.

He added that the airstrikes against the Houthis had achieved their targets within the first 15 minutes, and that a ground offensive was not in the plan for the time being.

Locals have reported that most of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, is now under complete darkness after electricity cuts.

Gulf states shunned Egypt in military operation

Egyptian television presenter and interviewer Ahmed Mansour wrote on his Facebook page the reason for Egypt's negligible role in Operation Determination Storm was due to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's secret backroom meetings with the governments in opposition to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states.



Translation: After the Gulf states realised Sisi’s betrayal and secret meetings with the Houthis, Iranians and Syrians to plot against them, they did not inform Sisi about operation Determination Storm and did not ask him to participate. And when Sisi woke up and found that the Gulf states had taken the matter into their hands with a surprise war to secure their existence and borders and curb Iranian influence, Sisi rushed to declare his support of the operation and willingness to participate. But the Gulf had already sent the message across and taught Egypt a lesson.

 

Video: Yemen's Houthis protest against Saudi-led strikes

Houthi leader: Yemen will defend its dignity

In his first appearance since the Saudi air strikes on Yemen, head of the Houthi movement Abdel Malik al-Houthi gave a speech in which he denounced the Arab coalition involved in the military intervention as puppets of the west.

The live speech was aired on the Houthi al-Masirah television channel.

Al-Houthi said that Yemen’s people will oppose “criminal, unjust and unjustified aggression” by Saudi Arabia.

“Our Yemeni people are more resolved and determined to defend themselves, to defend their freedom and defend its dignity,” he stated.

Video: Sanaa after the Saudi-led strikes

Houthis storm press offices in Sanaa

Houthi militiamen stormed the Sanaa offices of local newspaper al-Masdar on Thursday, detaining several of its journalists, Anadolu Agency reported.

al-Masdar's website was taken up by a large breaking news update bearing the report.



Translation: Breaking: Houthi militias storm the headquarters of al-Masdar media outlets (al-Masdar newspaper and al-Masdar Online} and kidnap a number of colleagues

Al-Jazeera's Yemen correspondent also reported that the channel's Sanaa offices had been raided by the Houthis.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organisation that promotes press freedom, has frequently documented attacks on journalists in Yemen since Houthi militias took over large areas of the country.

"We call on all sides in Yemen to respect the civilian status of journalists and allow the media to work safely and freely during this critical juncture," the group said in a statement released in January.

 

President Hadi to attend Arab summit in Egypt



Translation: The President of the Republic arrives in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on his way to Sharm al-Sheikh to attend the Arab summit

President Hadi has confirmed on his official Facebook page that he will travel to Egypt to attend an Arab summit in the resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Hadi touched down in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday afternoon, and was met by the Defence Minister and the Head of General Intelligence.



Hadi meets Saudi Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman (Twitter/@abubakrabdullah)

A group of Arab foreign ministers are meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on Thursday.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister is due to begin speaking at a press conference shortly.

Strikes hit Taiz, stronghold of anti-Houthi sentiment

Fighter jets have begun striking the city of Taiz, the capital of the most populous governorate in Yemen.

The south-western city of some 600,000 people is a stronghold of anti-Houthi sentiment.

Earlier on Thursday residents of the city held a demonstration in the central square to express their support for the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis, who took control of the city last week.

The Saudi Embassy in the United States tweeted a video that purportedly showed thousands of people in Taiz demonstrating in support of the military intervention.

Video: Thousands demonstrate in #Taiz #Yemen in support of #Saudi-led coalition against #Houthi rebels http://t.co/aVYDNDxGL2 @SkyNewsArabia

— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) March 26, 2015

: now Joy & happiness from Taiz, #Yemen they thanks the Saudi king for save them from #al_Huthi #عاصفة_الحزم pic.twitter.com/0iyRNiu2pM

— سالم الظفيري (@salmaed) March 26, 2015

Commenters on the ground reported that the strikes targeted Taiz Airport, which is under Houthi control.

Houthi fighters responded with anti-aircraft gunfire.

Hadi allies retake key air base in south

Troops allied to President Mansour Hadi, who arrived in the Saudi capital on Thursday afternoon, have retaken a key base in Yemen's south.



Al-Anad air base, located near the main southern city of Aden, was seized by Houthi forces on Wednesday morning.

Al-Anad was a key location for the US counter-terror operation in Yemen - around 100 US soldiers were evacuated from the base last week.