Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition have bombed Huthi Shi’ite rebels in support of Yemen’s embattled president, who headed to an Arab summit to garner support as Iran warned the intervention was ‘dangerous’.
Powerful explosions rocked Sanaa on Thursday night soon after rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi criticised the intervention as ‘unjustified’ and called for supporters to confront the ‘criminal oppressive aggression’.
President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived in Riyadh, with officials saying he was on his way to Egypt to take part in a two-day Arab League summit starting on Saturday.
That was the first confirmation of Hadi’s whereabouts since the rebels began advancing this week on the main southern city of Aden, where the president had been holed up since fleeing the rebel-controlled capital last month.
Their advance raised Saudi fears the Shi’ite rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni-majority neighbour and take it into the orbit of Shi’ite Iran.
The White House voiced concerns about ‘reports of Iranian flow of arms into Yemen’ as the Saudi-led coalition declared its first wave of strikes ‘successful’ and vowed to prevent supplies reaching the rebels.
Saudi Arabia launched air strikes before dawn, saying it had assembled a coalition of more than 10 countries, including five Gulf monarchies.
The Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, said the coalition stood ready to do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect Hadi’s government.
On the eve of the Egypt summit, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi also declared full support for the strikes following a ‘coup’.
But Iran reacted furiously, condemning the intervention as ‘a dangerous step’ that violated ‘international responsibilities and national sovereignty’.
President Hassan Rouhani said it amounted to ‘military aggression’ and ‘condemned all military intervention in the internal affairs of independent nations’.