SANAA, Yemen, March 25 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it launched a military operation against the Houthis in Yemen after the rebels overtook parts of the port city of Aden.
The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, told reporters the country is acting to "defend the legitimate government" of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Earlier in the day, Hadi fled Aden -- where he had been holed up during intense fighting -- on a boat.
Al-Jubeir said fellow Gulf states supported Saudi Arabia's action against the Houthi rebels. A senior Arab diplomat told CNN the Gulf Cooperation Council — except for Oman — is expected to issue a statement in support of Yemen. Not all of the countries would provide military support.
Early Wednesday, the rebels seized the Al Anad air base used by American forces for counterterrorism operations as the country heads to civil war and possibly captured two Hadi military loyalists, the New York Times reported.
The United States evacuated Al Anad several days ago as the rebels advanced. On Tuesday, Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh urged Hadi to flee the country and go into exile.
Saleh accused Hadi of destroying the country after he reestablished his presidency following the Houthi coup. The Houthis, now the country's de facto rulers, took control of the Yemen's government last month.
"The people can not afford to eat or drink, you have gobbled up their dues, suspended their salaries, brought their livelihoods to a standstill, investment to a halt and tourism, too," Saleh said at a news conference about Hadi.
Hadi asked the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing "all willing countries" to take all necessary actions to stop the Houthis' aggression. In a letter to the council, he also asked the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League to step in to protect Yemen from the Houthis.