ADEN, Dec 6 – A Saudi-led coalition intensified
air strikes on Yemen early on Wednesday as the armed Houthi
movement tightened its grip on the capital after it killed
former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who switched sides in the
Saudi Arabia and its allies struck a day after Saleh’s son
vowed to lead a campaign against the Houthis.
The intervention by Ahmed Ali, a former leader of the elite
Republican Guard once seen as a likely successor to his father,
gives the anti-Houthi movement a potential figurehead after a
week of fighting that saw the Houthis rout Saleh’s supporters in
Yemen’s war, pitting the Iran-allied Houthis who control
Sanaa against a Saudi-led military alliance backing a government
based in the south, has brought what the United Nations calls
the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Saleh had helped the Houthis win control of much of the
country’s north, including Sanaa, and his decision to switch
allegiances and abandon the Houthis in the past week was the
most dramatic change on the battlefield in years.
But the Houthis swiftly crushed the pro-Saleh uprising in
the capital and killed him.
Coalition fighter jets carried out dozens of air strikes,
both sides said, bombing Houthi positions inside Sanaa and in
other northern provinces.
Yemen’s pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station said the
coalition bombed Saleh’s residence and other houses of his
Residents told Reuters loud explosions were heard in
Masirah said air strikes also hit northern provinces
including Taiz, Haja, Midi and Saada. There was no immediate
word on casualties.
In a sign of support and defiance, tens of thousands of
Houthi supporters staged a rally in Sanaa on Tuesday to
celebrate the death of Saleh. They chanted slogans against Saudi
Arabia and its allies.
The proxy war between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and
Iran has already killed more than 10,000 people, with more than
two million displaced. Nearly a million have been hit by a
cholera outbreak and famine threatens much of the country.
The United Nations says millions of people may die in one of
the worst famines of modern times, caused by warring parties
blocking food supplies.
The UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail
Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called on all parties to show restraint in a
briefing to the Security Council.
“Increased hostilities will further threaten civilian lives
and exacerbate their suffering,” he said.
The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps
(IRGC), Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Yemen’s enemies
had been behind Saleh’s armed uprising and praised what he
called the Houthis’ swift quashing of the “coup against the holy
warriors”, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
The death of Saleh, who once compared ruling Yemen to
dancing on the heads of snakes, deepens the complexity of the
Much is likely to depend on the future allegiances of his
loyalists, who had previously helped the armed Houthi group,
which hails from the Zaidi branch of Shi’ite Islam that ruled a
thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962.
In a statement sent to Reuters by an aide, his son said his
father was killed at “the hands of the enemies of God and the
Ahmed Ali said he would “confront the enemies of the
homeland and humanity, who are trying to obliterate its identity
and its gains and to humiliate Yemen and Yemenis”.
The Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, Yemen is one of the
most violent fronts in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and
Iran, which have also backed opposing sides in Syria, Iraq and
elsewhere across the Middle East.