Airstrikes hit Al-Daylami Air Base, near Sana’a’s international airport, and the headquarters of the Yemen Air Force Academy inside the Houthi-controlled base.
Thunderous explosions were heard from the direction of the base and flames were seen engulfing the compound of the Yemeni army’s eighth division inside it, according to eyewitnesses.
The intense aerial bombardment was part of the preparatory process for a major campaign aimed at the liberation of Sana’a from the Houthis and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, government officials said.
In addition to heavy airstrikes, the operation, dubbed Operation Golden Arrow, will include mobilization of regular and volunteer forces in northeastern Yemen to participate in the Sana’a campaign.
The campaign, which started early Wednesday morning, involves large-scale coordination between forces loyal to exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition.
Arab coalition warplanes are expected to target rebels in Sana’a with as many as 1000 airstrikes within the next few days, the official said.
With the backing of the Saudi-led coalition, Hadi’s loyalists have in recent weeks made significant gains in Yemen, retaking the strategic city of Aden as well as driving the Houthis from the southern provinces of Lahj, Al-Dalea and Abyan.
Also on Wednesday, at least 30 Houthis, including senior commanders, were killed and injured in Saudi airstrikes in the Province of Amran north of Sana’a, local sources said.
Meanwhile, Somalia and Eritrea on Wednesday agreed to join the Saudi-led operations in the Red Sea against the Houthis, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.
Arab and African naval forces participating in the Saudi-led coalition have established a joint command to lead naval operations in the Red Sea, a coalition source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.
Emirati Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Taniji has been nominated to lead the joint naval force.
This comes as Arab coalition warships have been reported to be waiting off the coast of the western city of Al-Hudaydah.
As airstrikes intensify against the Houthis in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, Saudi-led forces are expected to conduct a landing operation soon, an anti-rebel source said.
In response, the Houthis have stepped up presence in Hudaydah’s Ad Durayhimi district as well as in areas near the coast.