Saudi-Led Air Strikes, Ground Combat Shake Southern Yemen

Saudi-Led Air Strikes, Ground Combat Shake Southern YemenSaudi-Led Air Strikes, Ground Combat Shake Southern Yemen

Heavy Saudi-led air strikes and ground combat between armed factions battered southern Yemen on Saturday, killing around 20 Houthi fighters and two rival militiamen, residents said, Reuters reported.

The war threatens to turn Yemen into a failed state and spread sectarian strife in the Middle East, where the regional heavyweights are vying for influence.

Bolstered by more than two weeks of air raids led by Saudi Arabia, local armed groups have been resisting the southward advance of the northern-based Shiite Muslim Houthis.

Inside the major port city, clashes erupted between Houthi forces and local militiamen firing rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns. Five Houthis and two local militiamen died, residents said.

In the city of Ataq east of Aden, residents reported some 10 air strikes on a military base housing pro-Saleh forces, blowing up ammunition dumps and sending huge fireballs into the air.

Warships believed to be from the Arab coalition shelled Houthi positions and a mountaintop military base run by soldiers loyal to Saleh near the city’s airport.

The Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 failed to produce stable democracies and instead gave rise to sectarian conflicts and Islamist militant groups seeking to seize power.

  Intelligence Sharing With Saudis

The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom’s air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, US officials told Reuters.

The stepped-up assistance comes as two weeks of relentless air strikes by the Saudis and other (Persian) Gulf Arab allies have largely failed to halt advances by the Houthi forces.

The US officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom’s targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.

“We have opened up the aperture a bit wider with what we are sharing with our Saudi partners,” said one US official.

“We are helping them get a better sense of the battlefield and the state of play with the Houthi forces. We are also helping identify ‘no strike’ areas they should avoid” to minimize any civilian casualties, the official said.

The United States, whose fight against al Qaeda militants in Yemen has been dealt a heavy setback by the Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa and ousting of the previous government, has avoided a direct role in the worsening conflict. It will still stop short of picking targets for the Saudis, said the four US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

  Call for Humanitarian Pause

The Red Cross and UN flew medical aid into Yemen’s capital Friday after the southern city of Aden was battered by the heaviest night yet of Saudi-led air strikes targeting Shiite Houthi rebels.

The United Nations also called for a daily “humanitarian pause” of a few hours, saying aid was desperately needed in the conflict-ravaged country, France 24 reported.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it dispatched an aircraft to Sanaa, its first aid shipment since the international campaign against Shiite rebels began last month.

More than two weeks of heavy bombardment by the Saudi-led alliance against opponents of exiled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and fighting between rival militias prompted the UN to call for a freeze in the violence.