After nearly four weeks of bombing rebels in Yemen, Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that its mission would end and its operations would enter a new phase.
In a statement, the Saudi Defense Ministry announced that it had “successfully eliminated the threat to the security of Saudi Arabia” posed by the rise of the rebel group, called Houthis, in the neighboring country. In other words, Saudi air raids had disabled the rebels’ heavy artillery.
The Saudi-led coalition includes support from other Arab governments, including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Its previous mission’s Arabic name can be translated as “Operation Decisive Storm.” It began when the Houthis forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi from his perch in the capital city, Sanaa. (RELATED: What Does The Arab Alliance Want From Its New War In Yemen?)
Despite Tuesday’s announcement of victory in “eliminating” the Houthis’ weapons, the mission’s original goal was to oust the Houthis from the capital and restore Hadi to power. Hadi, however, has been in Saudi Arabia since fleeing the country in March. He announced late Tuesday night that he would deliver a televised speech to the Yemeni people.
The new operation will be called “Operation Restoring Hope,” and will “include diplomatic and political efforts along with military operations,” according to Al-Arabiya.
Operation Decisive Storm, which was backed by the U.S., drew criticism for striking civilian and humanitarian targets alongside its purported enemies. (RELATED: US Warship Moving To Block Iranian Weapons Deliveries To Rebels In Yemen)
U.K.-based charity Oxfam reported Sunday that Saudi airstrikes had hit a warehouse of its humanitarian supplies in the northern governorate of Saada. Numerous reports over recent weeks have also documented airstrikes that killed civilians in public places, refugee camps and family homes. The poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen depends for food on shipments from outside, which have tapered off since the bombings began.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies say that the Houthis, who are Shiite, are a direct affiliate of Iran. While condemning the Arab bombing campaign and endorsing peace talks between Hadi and the Houthis, Iran has stopped short of claiming responsibility for the group’s actions.
Besides the Houthis and loyalists to Hadi, Yemen contains an influential al-Qaida presence as well as a growing group of militants pledging loyalty to the Islamic State terror group.
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