Yemenis gather around a crater left following a reported airstrike on March 28, 2015 in the capital Sanaa on the third day of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes against Houthis. United Nations staff evacuated Yemen's capital after a third night of Saudi-led airstrikes, as President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi urged his Arab allies to bomb Iranian-backed rebels into submission. Photo by Mohammad Abdullah/UPI | License Photo
ADEN, Yemen, March 28 (UPI) -- Coalition airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia against Shia Houthi rebels overrunning Yemen increased on Friday into Saturday as regional leaders voiced support for the toppled Sunni government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and hundreds of foreigners fled the country.
On Wednesday the Saudi navy evacuated Aden of Saudi nationals and at least 86 foreign diplomats and media representatives from 12 countries, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The evacuees arrived in Jeddah Saturday morning, the same day at least 200 United Nations personnel and other expatriates evacuated the capital of Sanaa.
Speaking Saturday at the 26th Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, leaders from regional powers such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Egypt, among others, vowed to continue military operations against Shia Houthi rebels who seized large portions of Yemen.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia said the operations would continue "until stability is returned" in Yemen, a sentiment that was echoed at the summit by Hadi, who fled Aden earlier this week for Saudi Arabia.
Hadi said the Houthis, which he has referred to as Iran's "stooges," had "turned against national unity" and were "dragging Yemen into a civil war."
Advancing Houthi forces overthrew Hadi's Sunni government last month, seizing Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and forcing the deposed president to set up a rival authority in Aden. Houthi seizures of parts of the port city, however, prompted Hadi's departure from the country and the Saudi-led coalition, which includes Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Pakistan and Egypt, to begin bombing operations against the rebels earlier in the week in an operation called "Determination Storm."
The coalition accuses Iran of supporting the Houthis, a charge the rebels have denied.
The strikes increased Friday night into early Saturday, residents of Sanaa, Aden and the western province of Hodeida told the Washington Post. Planes struck Attan air base in Sanaa, air-defense systems in Hodeida province and an ammunition depot in Aden, killing and wounding an unknown number of people.
"It's a classic move of taking out air defenses, ensuring air superiority and taking out command-and-control and communication posts," Riad Kahwaji, head of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told the Post, adding that such strikes could to "prepare the way" for an "imminent ground offensive."