Saudi Arabian warplanes bombed the presidential palace in Yemen’s capital, stepping up attacks on Houthi rebels after they killed the country’s former president just when he appeared set to switch sides and offer the Saudis a way out of the conflict, Bloomberg reported.
The Palace is used by the Houthi rebels leadership. Local media reported, that a at least seven airstrikes hit the palace in the capital Sana. According to Bloomberg, It’s the first time the building has been targeted in almost three years of war. Earlier, the rebels said they had killed ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose alliance with the Houthis had helped them control large parts of the country, including the capital, since 2014. The pact broke down in recent days, triggering clashes between the one-time partners.
Saleh governed Yemen for three decades before he was ousted during the Arab Spring in 2012 amid mass protests against his rule. He subsequently joined forces with the Houthis to fight against the new Saudi-installed government. His killing may alter the course of the war in Yemen, writes Bloomberg, often seen as part of a broader regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs the rebels.
According to Bloomberg:
For the past two years, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor has been divided into two camps, with the government of the Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden and the Houthis in control of the capital, Sana’a, and most of the north. A Saudi-led bombing campaign to restore Hadi’s authority over the whole country has devastated swaths of Yemen.
The war has left at least 14,000 killed or wounded, 1 million suffering from cholera, and 3 million internally displaced. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called Yemen the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis.”
In a televised speech on Monday, Hadi pledged to deploy his armed forces in any uprising against the Houthis in Sana’a, and appealed for the backing of Saleh’s supporters.
Until recently, Saleh had partnered with the Houthis, though the alliance was always tenuous because the former president had battled the rebels during his time in power. Many saw it as a marriage of convenience motivated by his wish to regain the presidency.