Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia, destroying an airbase in Sanaa and most of the militia’s air defenses, Al Arabiya News Channel reported early on Thursday, citing Saudi sources.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the airstrikes on the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Thursday at 12 am Riyadh time, the news channel reported, adding that the kingdom’s air force was “fully in control of the Yemeni airspace.”
Shortly afterwards Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir announced that the kingdom had launched a military operation involving air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters who have tightened their grip on the southern city of Aden where the country’s president had taken refuge.
Al-Jubeir told reporters that a 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Jubeir said.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman
He told reporters that Washington was not participating in the military operation, but U.S. officials said the United States was providing support to Saudi Arabia as it carries military operation in Yemen, according to Al Arabiya News.
Al Arabiya News Channel said Egypt was taking part in the coalition with ground, naval and air forces.
The Saudi-led military coalition declares Yemen’s airspace as “restricted area.”
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman had warned Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, against advancing toward Aden.
The Houthis have joined force with the loyalists of former President Saleh in their offensive to take control of Yemen.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassine told Al Arabiya News Channel that the operations would continue until the Houthis accept to sit down for peace talks and backtrack on all measures taken since their occupation of the capital Sanaa last September.
“We do not recognize any of what happened after September 21,” Yassine told Al Arabiya News, saying the military operation would help the southern Yemenis “regain confidence.”
Demonstrations reportedly broke out in Yemen’s Hadramout and Aden sin support of the Saudi airstrikes on the Houthi militia.
The military operation came shortly after Arab Gulf states, barring Oman, announced that they have decided to “repel Houthi aggression” in neighboring Yemen, following a request from the country’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
In their joint statement Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait said they “decided to repel Houthi militias, al-Qaeda and ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] in the country.”
The Gulf states warned that the Houthi coup in Yemen represented a “major threat” to the region’s stability.
The Gulf states also accused the Iranian-backed militia of conducting military drills on the border of Saudi Arabia with “heavy weapons.”
In an apparent reference to Iran, the Gulf statement said the “Houthi militia is backed by regional powers in order for it be their base of influence.”
The Gulf states said they had monitored the situation and the Houthi coup in Yemen with “great pain” and accused the Shiite militia of failing to respond to warnings from the United Nations Security Council as well as the GCC.
The statement stressed that the Arab states had sought over the previous period to restore stability in Yemen, noting the last initiative to host peace talks under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In a letter sent the U.N. Security Council and seen by Al Arabiya News, Hadi requested “immediate support for the legitimate authority with all means and necessary measures to protect Yemen and repel the aggression of the Houthi militia that is expected at any time on the city of Aden and the province of Taiz, Marib, al-Jouf [and] an-Baidah.”
In his letter Hadi said such support was also needed to control “the missile capability that was looted” by the Houthi militias.
Hadi also told the Council that he had requested from the Arab Gulf states and the Arab League “immediate support with all means and necessary measures, including the military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the ongoing Houthi aggression.”