Saudis Say Operation In Yemen Entering New Phase

April 21, 2015

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

The Saudi-led military operation in Yemen is shifting gears, moving from airstrikes against Houthi rebels to a new phase that will include diplomatic and political efforts alongside military operations, Saudi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said.

“The coalition will continue to prevent the movement of Houthi militias from moving or undertaking any operations inside Yemen,” Asiri said at a news briefing in Riyadh.

He said coalition airstrikes had destroyed the ballistic missiles operated by the Shiite Houthis.

The official Saudi Press Agency said operation “Decisive Storm” would end at midnight Wednesday and would give way to an operation being dubbed “Renewal of Hope.” It said the move came after a request from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

A statement from the Saudi Embassy in Washington added:

“[O]bjectives of Operation Renewal of Hope include protecting civilians, enhancing humanitarian and medical assistance to the Yemini people, confronting terrorism, and preventing any moves by the Houthi militias and their allies to acquire or use weapons seized from the Yemeni armed forces or abroad.”

Al-Arabiya reported that Saudi King Salman ordered his country’s National Guard to take part in the military campaign in Yemen.

The move, NPR’s Leila Fadel tells All Things Considered, is a surprise. And, she says, it’s unclear how much the airstrikes have hurt the Houthis, who have continued to advance and whose leader vowed Monday that they would never surrender.

The Saudi-led airstrikes began almost a month ago. As Leila reported Monday, while there are concerns internationally “about increasing casualties and questions about the strategy in the Saudi operation, which is receiving help from the U.S., among others … at home in the kingdom, the war has sparked a patriotic fervor that’s noticeable just about everywhere you turn.”

The Saudis accuse Iran of backing, supplying and financing the Yemeni Houthis, who have taken the capital, Sanaa, and ousted Hadi. Iran denies that charge.

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