Saudi Arabia began its military intervention in Yemen last night with a series of airstrikes initiated around 2 AM local time. Nine countries have said they are participating in the intervention, including five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and Sudan. The United States is not participating in “direct military action,” according to a statement by the National Security Council, but is assisting with “logistical and intelligence support.” According to Saudi reports, the Kingdom has mobilized 100 fighter jets and 150,000 soldiers for the intervention, though there have been no reports of Saudi ground forces in Yemen yet.
The airstrikes are a response to the southern expansion of Yemen’s Houthi movement, a Shia revivalist group with ties to Iran. The Houthis seized Sanaa in January and have marched south toward Aden over the course of this week. Embattled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Aden last month, has moved from the presidential compound in the city to an undisclosed location, possibly at sea. Members of his government welcomed the intervention, which they have been calling for since this past weekend. A Houthi official said Thursday, “There is an aggression underway on Yemen and we will confront it valiantly,” and that the intervention “will drag the region to a wide war.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran would “make all efforts to control crisis in Yemen” and a spokesperson told press, “This invasion will bear no result but expansion of terrorism and extremism throughout the whole region.”
Initial strikes have targeted air bases near Sanaa and Aden. Saudi Arabia said last night that they have already destroyed most of the Houthis’ air defenses, and today, forces loyal to Hadi recaptured the Aden airport. The Yemen Times has reported civilian casualties from strikes in Sanaa.
U.S. Escalates Support in Tikrit with Airstrikes
The United States has escalated its role in the Iraqi offensive against Islamic State-occupied Tikrit. Iraqi forces, which have been supported by Iranian advisers and Shia militia forces, have been stalled in their efforts to recapture the city for the past week. U.S. officials said earlier this week it would assist Iraqi forces in Tikrit with intelligence and reconnaissance support, but began airstrikes yesterday, citing a “failure by Iran to produce results on the ground.”
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met as the P5+1 talks over Iran’s nuclear program resumed today in Lausanne, Switzerland, ahead of a deadline for a framework agreement.
- One person was killed and three others were wounded in an explosion at the Istanbul office of a Turkish magazine affiliated with a radical Islamist group.
- A 10-year-old girl was killed by a bomb placed near her school in Cairo.
- Saudi Arabia announced it would offer bonuses to inspectors who find labor violations as part of a continuing crackdown on illegal foreign workers.
- A debate in the parliament of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq over a term extension for President Massoud Barzani led to fisticuffs, postponing a debate on oil and gas legislation.
-J. Dana Stuster
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images