Saudi Arabia began airstrikes Wednesday against Houthi rebel positions in Yemen, vowing that the Sunni kingdom will do “anything necessary” to protect its neighbor from Iran-backed Shiite rebels.
The airstrikes campaign was announced at the Saudi embassy in Washington by Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in a rare news conference. Offensive military action by Saudi Arabia is also a rarity, although Saudi Arabia is a partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria.
There were indications that regional assistance to Yemen was extending beyond Saudi Arabia.
In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain said they would answer a request from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to protect Yemen. Oman, the sixth member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, didn’t sign onto the statement.
The council is expected to meet this weekend in Saudi Arabia and Hadi is expected to attend.
Driven weeks ago from the capital by the Houthis, Hadi abandoned the country Wednesday, leaving on a boat from the southern port of Aden, Yemeni security officials said. His departure came after rebel airstrikes rained down on his troops, a sign that rebels held air superiority and that Hadi’s calls for an international no-fly zone had been disregarded. On the ground, the rebels were advancing toward his position.