Bat­tered Ye­men gets med­i­cal aid

The first sup­plies ar­rive since Saudi-led airstrikes be­gan, amid grow­ing public fury.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Zaid al-Alayaa Al-Alayaa is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent. Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SANA, Ye­men — Des­per­ately needed med­i­cal aid be­gan ar­riv­ing in Ye­men by air Fri­day for the first time since the start of a Saudi Ara­bi­an­led air of­fen­sive, amid grow­ing signs of public anger over the death and de­struc­tion caused by more than two weeks of bom­bard­ment.

The two re­lief flights — ship­ments of med­i­cal aid and food sup­plies from the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross and the U.N. chil­dren’s aid agency UNICEF — landed in the cap­i­tal, Sana, hours af­ter the city was bat­tered by thun­der­ous overnight strikes.

Aid of­fi­cials ex­pressed re­lief over the ship­ments’ ar­rival but de­scribed them as far short of meet­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian needs. Smaller ship­ments had pre­vi­ously ar­rived by sea, but those have been largely blocked by fight­ing.

The Saudi-led air cam­paign is tar­get­ing Shi­ite Mus­lim Houthi rebels and el­e­ments of Ye­men’s mil­i­tary al­lied with the in­sur­gents and de­posed strongman Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh. Forces loyal to ex­iled Pres­i­dent Abdu Rabu Man­sour Hadi have been try­ing to turn back the Houthi of­fen­sive in Ye­men’s north and south, with the fiercest fight­ing con­cen­trated in the strate­gic south­ern port city of Aden.

Con­certed bom­bard­ment has failed to dis­lodge the rebels from Aden, the coun­try’s com­mer­cial hub. And in the cap­i­tal, Sana, which the Houthis seized last year, res­i­dents re­ported some of the heav­i­est bom­bard­ment since the start of the air war, with overnight strikes hit­ting bases and weapons caches held by the Houthis and Saleh loy­al­ists.

The Saudis have mus­tered the sup­port of re­gional al­lies, in­clud­ing Egypt, but on Fri­day law­mak­ers in Pak­istan — which has a pow­er­ful and well-equipped mil­i­tary — de­clined to join the coali­tion. The Pak­istani par­lia­ment urged a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis.

In Sana and else­where, Ye­me­nis poured into the streets for large-scale demon­stra­tions de­nounc­ing the airstrikes, while mosque preach­ers con­demned the car­nage from the pul­pit. Many peo­ple are fu­ri­ous with both the Houthis and with the “popular com­mit­tees” loyal to Hadi, who fled last month and has taken shel­ter in Saudi Ara­bia.

The fight­ing in Ye­men un­der­scores the sec­tar­ian ten­sion roil­ing the re­gion. Saudi Ara­bia, pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni Mus­lim, re­gards the Houthis as in­stru­ments of ag­gres­sion on the part of Shi­ite Mus­lim Iran. The Tehran gov­ern­ment de­nies arm­ing the rebels and has de­nounced the Saudi-led mil­i­tary cam­paign in ever more stri­dent terms.

In Tehran on Fri­day, a day af­ter Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, ex­co­ri­ated the bom­bard­ment as a “geno­cide,” ser­mons at Fri­day prayers — the most im­por­tant of the Mus­lim week — de­nounced Saudi Ara­bia and the United States, which has been pro­vid­ing the Saudis with lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port and ex­pe­dited weapons ship­ments.

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