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Saudi-led air raids continue over Yemen

Warplanes of Saudi Arabia and Arab allies have struck Yemen on a second night in a campaign against Yemeni Shiite Houthi rebels. Iran has denounced the bombing. The US says it has shared intelligence on Houthi targets.

Yemen's civil war was turning into an increasingly international conflict on Friday, pitting US-backed Saudi Arabia against Iran as Washington tried to wrap up a deal with Tehran on its nuclear ambitions.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television said some 100 Saudi warplanes had struck during Thursday at Shiite Houthis from Yemen's north and allied army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who in recent months have taken over much of the country.

Also involved were eight other Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, although it was not clear which ones carried out the strikes.

Bombs fell on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa (pictured above), terrifying residents, according to Reuters. Thousands of Houthi supporters chanted death threats against Saudi Arabia and the US.

To the south, outside Aden, Houthis fought gun battles with militiamen loyal to current President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has since fled to Saudi Arabia.

Reuters said pro-Hadi fighters had retaken Aden airport, but the facility remained closed. At least 13 pro-Houthi fighters and three militiamen had been killed.

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi Ankunft in Riad

Yemen's Hadi arriving in Riyadh

Saudi state television late on Thursday showed Hadi arriving in Riyadh after fleeing Yemen's southern port city of Aden by ship on Wednesday as rebels closed in.

In an indication that the conflagration could widen, Egypt's presidency said four Egyptian naval ships were headed to the Gulf of Aden, which is part of a key global oil supply route.

Ground invasion?

Egyptian military officials quoted by Associated Press said a coalition led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia could begin a ground invasion into Yemen - from Saudi Arabia and via landings along Yemen's Red and Arabia Sea coasts.

The aim was to weaken the Houthis ahead of negotiations on power-sharing, they said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told Arab foreign ministers preparing for a weekend Arab summit in Sharm el-Sheikh that Egypt was "prepared for participation with naval, air and ground forces if necessary."

Exiled Yemeni president Hadi is expected to attend that summit, which is to begin the creation of a new joint Arab military force to intervene in regional crises.

US intelligence support

Washington, which last week quit the southern Yemeni al-Annad airbase from where it had run drone raids against al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, said the US had provided logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led intervention.

US military officials quoted by the news agency AFP said the US role would remain "limited" and insisted American aircraft or troops would not be deployed on the ground.

"The premise of this is that this will be a Saudi-led operation," a US officer said.

Houthis, Iran outraged by intervention

In a televised speech, rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said Yemenis would confront the "criminal" aggression by Saudi Arabia.

Iran, which denies funding the Houthis, demanded an immediate halt to the Saudi-led air raids. Foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said the Saudi-led intervention would "bear no result but expansion of terrorism and extremism throughout the whole region."

Kerry in Switzerland for talks with Iran

A US State Department traveling with US Secretary of State John Kerry said from Lausanne, Switzerland that Kerry had made a conference call to Gulf foreign ministers and had expressed support for the air strikes.

The department said there was "no contradiction" in negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program as the Yemen conflict widened.

In the US Congress, lawmakers backed the Saudi-led action, saying that the rebels' advance had to be checked to clear the way for an eventual political settlement and deprive al-Qaeda of a sanctuary.

"Given the horrors of Syria, such an outcome must be avoided at all costs," said Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

ipj/bk (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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