Riyadh and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—After almost four weeks of airstrikes, the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthi movement in Yemen announced that Operation Decisive Storm had come to an end on midnight Tuesday—though the latest reports from Yemen suggest another round of airstrikes restarted on Wednesday following acts of aggression by Houthi militias.
On Tuesday evening, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri announced that the campaign, which saw some 2,400 airstrikes launched in under four weeks, had now fulfilled all its strategic objectives—to weaken the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement’s militias and forces loyal to their ally, ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and their grip on the country.
He said the sea blockade currently being enforced by the coalition’s members—which in addition to the Kingdom include Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt—would continue and stressed that all ships passing through the strategic Bab El-Mandeb strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in the country’s south would continue to be searched thoroughly.
He also warned that the end of the airstrikes signaled an act of goodwill by the coalition, but that they would continue to remain vigilant in the face of further possible acts of aggression by the Houthis and their allies.
Also on Tuesday evening, Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi gave a televised speech from the Saudi capital Riyadh, announcing he had requested the strikes come to an end. The operation, which began last month, was commenced as a result of a request by Hadi to the Kingdom and other Arab countries to intervene with military force in Yemen.
Hadi also thanked Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, and all the members of the coalition for their swift response and for “standing by the Yemeni people” and the legitimate political authority in the country—represented by Hadi and premier, and now also vice president, Khaled Bahah and his cabinet.
He said “full responsibility” for the current events in Yemen fell upon the Houthis “and all who allied with them”—an implicit reference to former president Saleh and Iran, whom Saudi Arabia, their allies, and the international community accuse of conspiring with the Houthis and aiding their coup, which the group launched in February.
In a joint statement on Tuesday evening, members of the coalition said a new operation, dubbed “Restoring Hope,” had now begun and would concentrate on restarting political dialogue in Yemen in accordance with last week’s UN Resolution 2214 as well as the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and the Gulf Initiative, both held during 2013 to set a political road map for the country’s post-Arab Spring future.
However, there have been reports from Yemen on Wednesday that a new round of coalition airstrikes began in the country after aggression by Houthi militias, who have reportedly continued to move tanks toward the southern port city of Aden and have seized another government compound in the coastal city of Taiz on the Red Sea.
Reports on Wednesday also suggest the Houthis have released Yemen’s Defense Minister Gen. Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, who last month escaped a Houthi-imposed house arrest but was later recaptured by the group’s militias.
Hadi and Premier and Vice President Bahah were also placed under house arrest last month. Both eventually managed to escape to Aden, with Hadi later heading to Riyadh to request military intervention in the country.
The Houthis, backed by Iran and Saleh, began their advance throughout Yemen back in September of 2014, taking over government buildings, media outlets, and military installations in the capital Sana’a after their followers staged a month-long series of mass protests in the city.
Later in February, the group announced it was launching a coup, the so-called “Constitutional Declaration,” which gave the Houthis a unilaterally declared mandate to form a new cabinet and an interim presidential council to govern the country’s affairs.
Arafat Madabish contributed additional reporting from Sana’a.