Yemeni civilians' protection is top priority, Saudi-led coalition says

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 18.04.2017 01:03

The Saudi-led coalition gives priority to the protection of civilians amid ongoing war in Yemen, Saudi general Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi group, said in an interview broadcast Sunday by the television channel Al-Arabiya.

"The coalition's course of action consisted of two options: either a conventional air campaign, followed by a comprehensive ground operation on all Yemeni territory, with forces entering Yemen and occupying all areas. But this approach would have proven costly," Asiri said.

In two years, the rebels fired 47,847 rockets at Saudi territory, as well as "48 ballistic missiles, all of which were intercepted," he stated. "It did not happen for several reasons: First, there would have been a large deployment of ground forces, which would have resulted in a large number of civilian and military casualties. One of the objectives of the coalition is to rid Yemeni civilians of the Houthi rebel presence in their daily lives.

"There are around 100,000 Saudi forces stationed on the border that could have occupied Yemen in a few days, but we wanted to support legitimacy in Yemen with the least possible losses on both sides. We are like a technical team in a hostage situation," he added.

The Saudi-led coalition also comprises the Gulf monarchies of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates along with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. The campaign to restore the government ousted by the Iran-allied militia is part of a larger assertive effort to prevent weapons from reaching Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies, who have overrun much of Yemen. Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee the country. Houthis have also been accused with preventing humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, a mine blast killed a Saudi border guard on Sunday on the kingdom's southern frontier with war-wracked Yemen, the interior ministry said. Another three members of the force were wounded in the explosion in Jizan province, a spokesman cited by the official SPA news agency said. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels in its impoverished southern neighbor for the past two years.

At least 130 Saudi members of the security forces and civilians have been killed, mainly by rockets fired from Yemen, since the coalition intervened in support of President Hadi in March 2015.

Yemen has been wracked by chaos since late 2014, when Houthi rebels and their allies overran the capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country. The conflict escalated in mid-2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a major air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen's embattled Saudi-backed government. Two rounds of U.N.-backed peace talks have failed to resolve the conflict in which thousands of Yemenis are believed to have been killed and an estimated three million forced to flee their homes.

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