Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes Wednesday against Houthi rebel positions in Yemen and pledged to protect its neighbor from Iran-backed Shiite militants.
The announcement came after Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled by boat earlier in the day as rebels advanced to take the southern port city of Aden, where he had taken refuge.
The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, announced the airstrikes campaign at the Saudi embassy in Washington in a news conference. Both the news conference and the military action were rare moves by the Sunni nation of Saudi Arabia.
The Al-Arabiya network has reported that Saudi Arabia has also deployed 150,000 troops and 100 fighter jets.
Other Arab nations were poised to act as well. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain also said they would answer a request from Hadi “to protect Yemen and his dear people from the aggression of the Houthi militias.” Oman, the sixth member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, didn’t sign the statement.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect the legitimate government of Yemen,” the Saudi ambassador said.
Allies loyal to the Houthis — the Shiite rebels who have overtaken the capital Sanaa and a number of other cities — captured Aden’s international airport, Yemen security officials said Wednesday.
Jubeir declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved U.S. intelligence assistance.
Intelligence files held by Yemeni forces containing secret details of U.S. intelligence operations in the country have been taken by rebel leaders, exposing names of informants and U.S. planning, the Los Angeles Times reported from Washington, citing two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
U.S. intelligence officials believe files were handed to Iranian advisers by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias, the report said… see more