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Saudi Arabia dismisses Iran calls for Yemen ceasefire

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal gestures during a joint news conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia dismissed Iranian calls to end air strikes on neighbouring Yemen on Sunday as Saudi-led attacks hit a military camp in the Yemeni city of Taiz, killing eight civilians according to a medical source.

Riyadh said Tehran should not interfere in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies began air strikes against Iranian-allied Houthi militia fighters over two weeks ago to try and prevent them making further advances.

The air raids on the central Yemeni city targeted a site held by soldiers loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have joined up with Houthi fighters against local militias in the south, the source said.

“How can Iran call for us to stop the fighting in Yemen?” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said in the Saudi capital Riyadh at a news conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. “We came to Yemen to help the legitimate authority, and Iran is not in charge of Yemen.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that the air strikes were a “crime and genocide” and Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called for a ceasefire and dialogue among Yemen's factions.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies bombing Yemen fear that Shia Iran seeks hegemony by backing armed Shia groups in the region, a charge the Islamic Republic denies. Former President Mr. Saleh was forced to give up power in 2012 after mass protests against his rule, but his loyalists in the military remained in place and now fight alongside the Houthis.

The campaign has raised fears that a sectarian proxy war between rivals Riyadh and Tehran will further destabilise the Middle East and potentially destroy the Yemeni state.

Yemen on the brink

Who are fighting whom?

  • The rebel group controls nine of 21 provinces now
  • Here are some of those who are participating and what they are deploying: 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and some naval units 30 fighter jets 15 fighter jets 15 fighter jets 10 fighter jets 6 fighter jets 3 fighter jets naval and air forces involved.
  • The military is now split as units that support Mr. Hadi, units that support the Houthis, and units that support a still-influential Saleh, who is in the Houthi camp for now
  • Militia loyal to Hadi in his stronghold of south Yemen.
  • Mr. Hadi and Houthis are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has staged several attacks in the country and is strong in the south. Active since 2009. AQAP has taken advantage of the power struggle.
  • A new group of militants inspired by the Islamic State group has claimed major attacks, including suicide bombings which killed at least 142 people at Shia mosques in Sana’a.
  • CIA drones have continued to target top AQAP leaders, but the campaign has suffered from Mr. Hadi’s absence. Last week, U.S. military advisers were withdrawn from a southern base as al-Qaeda militants seized a nearby city.

Who are the Houthis?

The Houthis are followers of the Shia Zaidi sect, the faith of around a third of Yemen’s population. Officially known as Ansarallah (the partisans of God), the group began as a movement preaching tolerance and peace in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s.

After some protests pitted it against the government, the group launched an insurgency in 2004 against the then ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that lasted till 2010. Their opponents view them as a proxy of Shia Iran. The group is hostile to the United States but has also vowed to eradicate al-Qaeda. They participated in the 2011 Arab Spring inspired revolution in Yemen that replaced Saleh with Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi.

Key dates to the Yemen conflict


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    Printable version | May 9, 2022 6:58:48 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Saudi-Arabia-dismisses-Iran-calls-for-Yemen-ceasefire/article60327740.ece