What happened in the first few days of airstrikes in Yemen
Monday, March 30, 2015:
The number of victims of GCC airstrikes rises to 39. Journalists kidnapped by Houthi rebels have been released; Turkey offers moral support for the airstrikes while the EU expresses concern
Most recent update: 3.30.2015 3:2o pm ET (20:20 GMT)
A coalition of 10 countries led by Saudi Arabia began airstrikes in Yemen on on Thursday, March 26 at approximately 2 am local time.
The airstrikes began after a request from Yemen’s president, Mansour Hadi, and were “designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis.” The Houthi militia has been fighting the Yemeni government for nearly a decade, and in recent months has made enormous gains across the country, including capturing the capital, Sana’a.
Note: We’ve shifted our updates to a daily format. You can find the most recent story by looking at our Medium page at medium.com/reportedly. Read below to understand what happened in the first few days of the airstrikes.
The 10 countries began airstrikes late in the night between March 26 and March 27.
Sources on the ground reported gunshots and explosions overnight and into the next day in Sana’a and Aden. By the next day, Yemen’s Ministry of health said 25 people were killed. That toll was updated Friday to 39 Amnesty International reports that at least six children under the age of 10 were killed.
The Saudi Press Agency said that the first phase of operations targeted air bases and destroyed aircraft, ballistic missiles and command and control centers, as well as communications. On Friday, a Saudi general announced the coalition now controls Yemen’s airspace and destroyed Houthi fighter jets on the ground.
The coalition said they began the airstrikes at the request of President Mansour Hadi. Hadi escaped Yemen as the airstrikes began. Initial reports suggested that that he found refuge in Oman, which is not participating in GCC airstrikes. On Thursday night, Saudi media confirmed that he had arrived in Riyadh and later arrived to attend the upcoming Arab League meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
On the ground, local journalists faved troubles from Houthis. Sameer Jubran, editor and co-founder of the independent Yemeni newspaper and website, Al Masdar, told us in an exclusive interview that his news organization’s headquarters was sacked by Houthi militants and its journalists kidnapped. The journalists were later released.
Citizens also began pro-airstrike, anti-Houthi rallies in Taiz on Thursday, March 26 (video).
In the hours after the airstrikes began, countries around the world began making statements of support or condemnation of the airstrikes. Oman was one of the only countries that is a member of the Gulf Cooperative Council that did not participate in the airstrikes.
After the US and UK stated their support for GCC led airstrikes, Turkey’s Foreign Minister added Turkey support, according to France24 and Al Zaman. The foreign minister cited rebels’ “interference in the 2011 GCC plan for the reconstruction of Yemen.”
European Union minister Federica Mogherini said the EU doesn’t agree with the military operation, which could have grave consequences for the region.
Pakistan’s prime minister implied that any threats against Saudi will not be tolerated, but later the country’s defense minister Khawaja Asif said the country still is not sure on it’s role: “We have made no decision to participate in this war. We didnt make any promise. We have not promised any military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” he told parliament.
Somalia authorized Saudi to use its skies for airstrikes operations.
Morocco, expressed early on “full solidarity” of the Saudi-led campaign, but later “decided to provide all forms of support to the coalition.” That includes warplanes currently based in the United Arab Emirates.
In Egypt, maritime sources confirmed to Reuters that four warships from the Egyptian fleet left the Suez Canal on Thursday, March 26, for Bab al-Mandab Strait in the Gulf of Aden, where they would take part in a joint operation to secure the port. Later this was confirmed by various officials, and finally by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, speaking at a meeting in Sharm el Sheikh ahead of Arab League summit. Shoukri also added that Egypt was ready to send ground forces if necessary, according to al Arabiya. Later, officials told AP that operations will include a ground assault, co-led by Egypt with Saudi Arabia.
Sudan’s Ministry of Defense also confirmed they’re joining the military operation with ground troops and three fighter jets.
Many of these countries met at the Arab League summit over the weekend. Foreign ministers there approved a draft resolution on the establishment of a joint Arab force, announced by Arab League secretary general Nabil Al-Arabi. The joint force has been in the works for some time, and will be discussed at the Arab League summit this weekend. Reports on Monday, March 30, hint at the possibility that it will take about 4 months to see plan implemented.
There are significant humanitarian concerns.
Our own Malachy Browne checked a report stating UN personnel were being evacuated from Sana’a and Aden — you can follow entire story on this Twitter thread.
Many humanitarian organizations have suspended their support to Yemen, and UNICEF warns there will be a major humanitarian crisis in coming months if more aid is not sent. (Guardian).
Al Mazraq camp, home to thousands of internally displaced Yemeni since 2009, was hit by Saudi airstrikes on Monday, March 30. UNHCR, IOM, Medics Without Borders, all confirmed that at least 15 people were killed in the airstrike and hundreds injured. Al Mazraq, in the North-West part of Yemen, is close to the Saudi border. According to reports, some Houthis had found refuge there in the last few days after fleeing from airstrikes in Sana’a.
It’s also been tough for those fleeing Yemen. After Egypt declared its military participation, it also issued a new order: as of Friday, March 27, Yemenis needed a pre-obtained visa to enter Egypt.