Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday it was ending a month-long campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels who seized large areas of Yemen and said it would back a political solution to bring peace to its war-ravaged neighbor.
Iran, which has supported the fellow Shi'ite Houthis, welcomed the ceasefire, which followed months of factional fighting between the militant group and forces loyal to the government, which was driven out of the capital Sanaa.
"Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals ... (including) removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, especially in terms of heavy weapons,” said a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
It said a new phase called “Operation Restoring Hope” was beginning. It would combine political, diplomatic and military action but would focus on “the political process that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen.”
Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri (photo) said the alliance may still target Houthis. “The coalition will continue to prevent the Houthi militias from moving or undertaking any operations inside Yemen,” he told reporters in Riyadh.
The White House on Tuesday also welcomed Saudi Arabia's announcement. “The United States welcomes today's announcement by the government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners of the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
The Saudis called for a quick resumption of UN-facilitated talks to try to get a peaceful political arrangement for Yemen, which has a long history of internal fighting.
Saudi Arabia had earlier signaled a change in its mission by ordering its National Guard, widely regarded as the kingdom's best equipped military ground force, to join the campaign, but did not say what role it would play.
The bloodshed in Yemen, racked by fighting between factions supported by different regional powers, had continued earlier in the day. At least 40 people, most of them civilians, were killed in two air strikes.
The conflict created desperate shortages of food and other supplies in Yemen, where sea and airports are closed. Houthi politburo member Mohammed al-Bukhaiti accused the United States of worsening the “siege” on the country by sending warships to the waters off Yemen.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that 944 people were reported killed and 3,487 wounded in Yemen in the four weeks up to Friday.
Rana Sidani, a WHO representative, said the toll only covered data reported to the Ministry of Health by hospitals and the actual number of casualties was likely much higher.
Source: Reuters, SPA