The ongoing Saudi air strikes on Yemen have so far claimed the lives of 13 civilians with more deaths feared, Yemeni sources say.
“Thirteen civilians, including women and children, were killed in the Saudi raids overnight,” a civil defense source said on Thursday.
According to witnesses, residents are helping civil defense authorities in the search for any more victims under the rubble of houses damaged in the air raids.
Following the attacks, forces loyal to fugitive Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi seized control of the international airport in the southern port city of Aden.
Troops of the 39th Armored Brigade, who are allied to the Houthi Ansarullah movement, had earlier seized the facility.
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.
According to Yemeni sources, parachutists of Saudi-led forces have already landed in Aden.
Yemeni TV has announced that former president Hadi has fled to Oman.
Saudi Arabia strikes Yemen
Saudi Arabia announced in the early hours of Thursday that it had begun launching airstrikes in Yemen where the Ansarullah fighters have been making advances.
“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 fugitive President Hadi, whose whereabouts are unknown after reportedly fleeing the country earlier in the day.
“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.”
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 (SPA), included all member states of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) except Oman.
“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.
Saudi Arabia said Thursday that five more countries want to join the [P]GCC coalition launching attacks in Yemen.
According to the Saudi state-run 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.”
Islamabad has said that it is examining the request from Saudi Arabia to join the military alliance on Yemen.
Pakistani Foreign office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan to join the coalition.
“I can confirm we have been contacted by Saudi Arabia in this regard. The matter is being examined. That’s all I have to say at the moment,” she said at a regular press briefing.
Islamabad is a longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia.
Egypt and Jordan have confirmed they will join Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the coalition.
Cairo has also announced its readiness to provide ground troops if necessary.
“Coordination is under way with Saudi Arabia and the [Persian] Gulf states to prepare for participation by the Egyptian air force and Egyptian navy, and a ground force if the situation warrants, as part of the coalition action,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saudi attack raises oil prices
Crude oil prices have increased on the global markets in the aftermath of the Saudi-led onslaught against Yemen.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery jumped $2.28 to $51.49 while Brent crude for May surged $2.46 to $58.94 in late Thursday morning trade.
The recent crude price surge comes amid fears that violence in Yemen could spill over and threaten key crude producers in the Middle East, including neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh seeking to bring Yemen under control
Speaking to Press TV, a Middle East political commentator said that Saudi Arabia’s strong opposition to a Yemen free from the Saudi hegemony explains why Riyadh has launched a military campaign against its conflict-ridden southern neighbor.
Ali Abbas al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for [Persian] Gulf Affairs, said early on Thursday that Saudi Arabia is making a huge miscalculation through waging a war against members of the Ansarullah movement in Yemen, as the fighters are now more trained and better equipped than the forces Saudi Arabia fought against back in 2009.
He also criticized Washington’s “naïve” policy vis-à-vis developments in Yemen, adding that the United States has surrendered its foreign policy on Yemen to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states.
Ahmed said he expects Ansarullah fighters to march into the Saudi territory within the next few days, and wrest control over its southwestern Jizan region, which is located near the border with Yemen.