GCC airstrikes continue across Yemen

Just after nightfall in San‘a, sources in the city are reporting the most intense airstrikes since the Saudi-led joint bombing operation began on Wednesday. The air campaign, which Saudi Arabia has dubbed Operation Decisive Storm (‘asifat al-Hazm), includes forces from all Gulf Cooperation Council states with the exception of Oman, which seems to be positioning itself as a potential mediator. Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco are also contributing forces, while the US and other western states have promised logistical and intelligence support.  According to Yemeni government sources (that is, pro-Houthi officials in the acting government in San‘a), at least 39 Yemeni civilians were killed in the first two nights of air raids. Thursday night's bombings expanded beyond the capital, with coalition warplanes targeting pro-Houthi and pro-Saleh forces in Sa‘dah, Ta‘iz, Aden, and Lahj. Strikes on Friday reportedly have also targeted positions in al-Hudaydah on the Red Sea coast.

Meanwhile, Houthi/Saleh forces have continued their ground campaign for control over southern Yemen, pushing into Abyan and Shabwah Governorates for the first time on Friday. Pro-Saleh forces have reportedly cut off Aden--which the GCC swears is still under the control of the "legitimate government," even though President Hadi fled the city two days ago--from the north, west, and east. GCC-coalition naval and ground forces are waiting off the coast of Aden, but have not entered Yemen yet.

To get a sense of the thinking within the US administration about this latest phase of the conflict, read the transcript of Thursday's State Department press briefing. It seems that the Obama administration may have been caught off-guard by the GCC air campaign, and there does not seem to be total agreement within the US government about the usefulness of GCC actions.

The escalating conflict is already exacerbating Yemen's very serious humanitarian crisis. With roads cut by rival military forces, and power and fuel unavailable, life is only getting harder for the millions of Yemenis facing food insecurity and water shortages.

For propaganda-heavy coverage of the campaign from the Saudi perspective, check out Al Arabiya's English and Arabic websites. Al Jazeera's coverage is more balanced, giving airtime to Yemenis who oppose the airstrikes. Democracy Now interviewed Yemeni analyst and activist Farea al-Muslimi from San'a today, and International Crisis Group released a new briefing paper, which argues that the best option for descalation and peaceful resolution of the crisis would be a monitored ceasefire under the auspices of the UN Security Council, followed by UN-led talks.