Saudi-led planes bomb Ye­men hours af­ter air war halt

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY FAWAZ AL- HAIDARI AND IAN TIM­BER­LAKE

Saudi-led war­planes launched new strikes in Ye­men Wed­nes­day, hours af­ter Riyadh an­nounced a halt to the four-week air cam­paign, as rebels seized a key loy­al­ist base in the third city Taez.

The Saudi- led coali­tion had warned it stood ready to counter against any ad­vance by the rebels and their al­lies even af­ter it ended Op­er­a­tion De­ci­sive Storm from mid­night (2100 GMT on Tues­day).

Ground fight­ing be­tween the rebels and forces loyal to ex­iled Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi raged on in a string of bat­tle­ground towns, in­clud­ing the sec­ond city of Aden as well as Taez, in a blow to U.S.-led talks.

In Taez, the rebels took ad­van­tage of the lull in air strikes to over­run the head­quar­ters of the 35th Ar­moured Brigade, loyal to Hadi, which they had be­sieged for nearly a week, an army of­fi­cer said.

The Saudi-led coali­tion hit back with air strikes against rebel po­si­tions in­side the cap­tured camp and else­where in the city.

The fight­ing left “dozens dead and wounded,” the of­fi­cer told AFP.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says at least 944 peo­ple have been killed in Ye­men since March 19 and there were calls from all sides for the ur­gent de­liv­ery of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

Riyadh said the strikes, which it

calls

for re­newed peace launched on March 26 as the rebels closed in on Hadi’s last refuge in Aden, had suc­ceeded in elim­i­nat­ing the threat posed to Saudi Ara­bia and its neigh­bors by the rebels’ air and mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

But rebel forces re­main in con­trol of the cap­i­tal Sanaa and swathes of the coun­try and Hadi is still in ex­ile in Riyadh, where he fled when the raids be­gan.

The coali­tion said its op­er­a­tions would now en­ter a po­lit­i­cal phase with the fo­cus on the re­sump­tion of talks, aid de­liv­er­ies and “fight­ing ter­ror­ism.”

Al-Qaida Threat

Al-Qaida’s Ye­men branch, re­garded by Wash­ing­ton as its most danger­ous, has taken ad­van­tage of the air war and ground fight­ing be­tween the rebels and Hadi loy­al­ists to con­sol­i­date its grip on Hadra­mawt prov­ince in the southeast.

Seven sus­pected al-Qaida mil­i­tants were killed in an ap­par­ent U.S. drone strike on the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Mukalla, which the ji­hadists over­ran ear­lier this month, wit­nesses and a lo­cal of­fi­cial said.

U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter has ac­knowl­edged that alQaida is gain­ing ground but has vowed that the long­stand­ing U.S. drone war will go on.

Wash­ing­ton wel­comed the end of the Saudi-led air cam­paign to which it had given in­tel­li­gence and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port.

“The United States wel­comes to­day’s an­nounce­ment by the gov- ern­ment of Saudi Ara­bia and its coali­tion part­ners of the con­clu­sion of Op­er­a­tion De­ci­sive Storm in Ye­men,” Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Alis­tair Baskey told AFP.

“We con­tinue to sup­port the re­sump­tion of a U.N.-fa­cil­i­tated po­lit­i­cal process and the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.”

Talks Calls

U. N.- bro­kered talks be­tween the war­ring par­ties broke down in Fe­bru­ary when Hadi fled to Aden af­ter the Huthis seized power in the cap­i­tal.

Hadi’s ousted pre­de­ces­sor Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, who has pro­vided key sup­port to the Shi­ite rebels, said he hoped the halt to the air war would lead to a re­turn to dia­logue.

“We hope that ev­ery­one will co­op­er­ate to re­turn to dia­logue, to find so­lu­tions other than plac­ing los­ing bets that are wrong and costly,” he said.

Army units which re­mained loyal to Saleh af­ter his ouster in 2012 fol­low­ing a bloody year-long up­ris­ing have pro­vided cru­cial sup­port to the rebels in their ad­vance across much of the coun­try.

In an ap­par­ent good­will ges­ture, the rebels freed three top com­man­ders — in­clud­ing the de­fense min­is­ter and a brother of Hadi — whom it had cap­tured dur­ing the fight­ing over the past month, me­di­a­tors said.

Iran of­fered its help in bring­ing the sides back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

“Pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments in Ye­men should be fol­lowed by ur­gent hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, in­tra-Ye­meni dia­logue & broad-based govt. Ready to help,” For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted from New York.

In a tele­vised speech from his refuge in Riyadh, Hadi thanked the coali­tion for its sup­port and re­fused to give up hope of re­turn­ing from ex­ile.

“We will soon re­turn to our home­land, to Aden and Sanaa,” he said.

He called on all sides to work to im­ple­ment a res­o­lu­tion adopted by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil last week which im­posed an arms em­bargo on the rebels but “which paves the way for pos­i­tive and ef­fec­tive dia­logue.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.