Saudi Arabia has begun launching airstrikes in Yemen where the Ansarullah fighters have acquired power, says the monarchy’s ambassador to the United States.
Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force reportedly bombed the positions of the Ansarullah fighters and launched attacks against the Sana’a airport and the Dulaimi airbase early on Thursday.
A Saudi warplane was shot down by the country’s air defense system, the al-Alam television reported.
The airstrikes also targeted the residential Nasr complex in northern Sana’a killing dozens civilians including children, according to reports.
Yemeni civil defense sources confirmed that at least 13 civilians have so far been killed in Sana’a during the Saudi offensive on Yemen.
The Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has deployed “100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units” for the military campaign in Yemen.
“The operation is to defend the legitimate government,” Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi envoy to the US, told reporters in a rare news conference at the Saudi embassy in Washington on Wednesday, referring to the administration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi whose whereabouts are unknown after reportedly fleeing the country earlier in the day.
Jubeir added that the current situation in Yemen “is not an option” for Riyadh, saying the operation began at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (2300 GMT).
He further accused the Houthi fighters of having “always chosen the path of violence,” claiming Riyadh would do “anything necessary” for “the legitimate government” of the Arab world’s most impoverished county.
“We consulted very closely with many of our allies and in particular with the United States. We are very pleased with the outcome of those discussions,” he said. “We have a situation where you have a militia group that is now in control or can be in control of ballistic missiles, heavy weapons and an air force.”
Saudis not alone
The Saudi envoy cited “outside countries” that are involved in the campaign, saying, “We have a coalition of over 10 countries that will participate in these operations to prevent Yemen from falling at the hands of the Houthis.”
Jubeir said the countries “would do whatever it takes” in the new war launched in the region.
Meanwhile, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE along with Saudi Arabia released a joint statement that they “have decided to answer the call of President Hadi” against the movement’s ”aggression”.
The statement, published by the Saudi Press Agency, included all member states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) except Oman.
According to The Associated Press, the fugitive president is expected to surface at a meeting of the (P)GCC in the kingdom.
“We have air assets from a number of countries in the (Saudi) kingdom and we have military assets that are on their way to the kingdom to participate in these operations,” the Saudi envoy said.
The al-Mayadeen television channel quoted the Egyptian foreign ministry as saying that coordination was underway with Saudi officials for aerial, ground, and sea invasion of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia said Thursday that five more countries want to join the coalition launching attacks in Yemen.
According to Saudi SPA state news agency, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan have “expressed desire to participate in the operation” against the Houthis, which the kingdom has dubbed “Firmness Storm.”
Arab and US officials told CNN that an interagency US coordination team is in Saudi Arabia.
According to that report, Saudis have not called for any help but are likely to ask for American air support, satellite imagery, and other intelligence.
“We can help with logistics and intelligence and things like that, but there will be no military intervention by the US,” a senior administration official said.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said in a statement that US President Barack Obama has “authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to (P)GCC-led military operations”.
Following the onset of the war, oil prices rose by around one percent