26 Mar 2015

Saudi Arabia launches air strikes in Yemen against rebels

Saudi Arabia is contributing 100 warplanes and 150,000 soldiers to the military operation in Yemen, despite opposition from Iran and China, as the country slides toward civil war.

Gulf broadcaster al-Arabiya TV reported that air strikes in Yemen were to counter Iran-allied forces besieging the southern city of Aden where the US-backed Yemeni president had taken refuge.

Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were ready to take part in a ground offensive in Yemen, it said.

Read more: Yemen president's location a mystery as battle rages

There was no immediate confirmation in regards to the number of troops and warplanes contributed from Riyadh.

Al-Arabiya also said the United Arab Emirates was sending 30 warplanes to join the operation, along with 15 each from Bahrain and Kuwait, 10 from Qatar, six each from Jordan and Morocco and three from Sudan.

Yemen’s slide towards civil war has made it a crucial front in mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran, which Riyadh accuses of stirring up sectarian strife throughout the region and in Yemen with its support for the Houthis.

The crisis now risks spiralling into a proxy war with Iran backing the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia and the other regional Sunni Muslim monarchies supporting Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Iranian state media, who denies providing money and training to the Shi’ite Houthi militia, said on Thursday the military operation was a “US-backed aggression”.

State television broadcast footage of some of the damage, showing dozens of bodies and some wounded people, saying “many Yemeni citizens were killed in the US-backed aggressions in Yemen”.

China has also waded into the debate, urging all parties to act in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions on Yemen, the foreign ministry told a press conference on Thursday.