US involvement in the Yemen conflict has become more concrete, with the US Defense Department outlining its support for a Saudi-led coalition. The humanitarian situation in Yemen remains critical.
Fighting between forces loyal to Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels was particularly fierce in the port city of Aden on Wednesday, as American involvement in the Saudi-led coalition to fight back against the rebels took further shape.
On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US was providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the Saudi-led coalition. "Some resupply of equipment and munitions" would also be provided, he said.
Civil war broke out in Yemen when Shiite Houthi rebels (pictured above in Sanaa) began fighting to oust President Hadi. Following the Houthis' assault in Aden nearly two weeks ago, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, which launched an offensive with its allies, including Jordan, Egypt and Sudan, to defeat the Houthis.
In addition, Carter spoke about the difficulty of conducting counterterror operations in the country given the quickly deteriorating security situation.
"Obviously it's always easier to conduct CT ops when there is a stable government willing to cooperate," Carter said in Tokyo, where he is working to strengthen ties between the US and Japan. "That circumstance now obviously doesn't exist in Yemen, but that doesn't mean that we don't continue to take steps to protect ourselves. We have to do it in a different way, but we do and we are."
On Tuesday, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed appreciation for the Saudi campaign, calling it a "strong message" to Houthi rebels. "In support of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries," Blinken told reporters in Saudi Arabia after talks with Riyadh officials.
Humanitarian crisis worsens
Despite clear appeals from aid agencies about a worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, a blockade had been instituted by a Saudi-led coalition that is fighting on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to cut off supply lines to Houthi rebels.
"We think that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day and a humanitarian disaster is unfolding," Grant Pritchard, head of Advocacy for Oxfam Yemen, told the dpa news agency on Wednesday. "There is a lack of basic services and basic commodities. There are fuel and food shortages as well as (shortages of) medicine supplies."
The Red Cross had loaded a plane full of medical supplies on Tuesday and was hoping to be allowed to deliver it on Wednesday.
Jordan resolution against Houthis
The Saudi-led strikes, which began on March 26, could also be backed by a proposal by Gulf Arab countries who wanted the United Nations Security Council to blacklist Ahmed Saleh, a Houthi militia leader and son of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The proposed embargo, if implemented, would impose an arms ban on Yemen's former president, his son and three other Houthi leaders loyal to Saleh. The resolution, drafted by Jordan, also called on "member states, in particular, states neighboring Yemen, to inspect…all cargo to Yemen."
The international community and all parties in the conflict were asked to facilitate evacuation of civilians and personnel from foreign countries from Yemen.
mz/jil (Reuters, AP, dpa, AP)