RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and its allies launched air strikes on Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday to stop the advance of the Iran supported Houthi rebels towards President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s southern refuge of Aden.
Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir said a coalition of more than 10 countries had joined the military campaign to try to protect Hadi’s government.
He added “We are just as concerned about the interference by Iran in the affairs of other countries in the region, whether it’s Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and other parts. We believe Iran’s behavior is not reassuring to people in the region.”
The military action against the Houthi rebels involved 100 Saudi jets, 30 from the United Arab Emirates, 15 each from Kuwait and Bahrain, 10 from Qatar, and a handful from Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, plus naval help from Pakistan and Egypt.
Morocco declared its support for the Saudi-led operation, but did not confirm or deny earlier reports by Gulf broadcaster al-Arabiya that it had sent fighter jets.
Hakim al-Masmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera that he could hear the sound of air strikes and gunfire in the capital.
A spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition said the military operation against the Houthis will continue “as long as necessary.”
A senior official in Obama’s administration said “there will be no military intervention by the U.S.” At the same time John Kerry on Thursday did tell foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman that the United States commends the military action and is supporting it through intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and logistical support, according to a senior State Department official.
Leader of Houthi rebels, Abdul Malik al-Houthi in a speech on al-Masirah TV, said, “If any army try to invade our country, we will prove that Yemen will be a grave for those who invade us.”
He added “What do they expect us to do, surrender, announce our defeat and act like cowards? Absolutely not. This is not how the honorable Yemeni people think. We will fight back. All 24 million Yemenis will stand united and face that despicable aggression.”
Iran denounced the military action and demanded an immediate halt to military action. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “We demand an immediate stop to the Saudi military operations in Yemen,” in an interview with Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam news network. “We will spare no effort to contain the crisis in Yemen.”
He added “We have always warned countries from the region and the West to be careful and not enter short-sighted games and not go in the same direction as Al Qaeda and Daesh.”
Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for an “immediate cessation of military activities” in Yemen and increased efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, the Kremlin said in a statement. China has expressed concern and called for dialogue.