March 24-31: Decisive Storm continues, as does Houthi expansion

The Saudi-led aerial bombing campaign, labeled Operation Decisive Storm, has divided the local media since it was launched last week. Besides, fresh news websites have emerged while some of those which had previously suspended operations have resurfaced. The campaign, ostensibly intended to halting the Houthi movement’s expansion across the country, started two days after UN envoy Jamal Benomar cancelled the political talks between the Houthis and their opponents, which had only just resumed in the capital, Sanʻa.

While such a campaign seems to have ended any possibility of political negations, the Saudi King called on the Houthis to participate in talks proposed to be held in Riyadh – a proposal that was rejected by the Houthis along with four other political parties earlier last month.

President Hadi’s newly appointed Foreign Minister, Riyadh Yasin (who, like Hadi, is currently in Saudi Arabia), said that the political process is dependent on the Saudi-led campaign.

In the days since the campaign was launched, Ansar Allah has not yet responded militarily toward Saudi Arabia as local observers expected. However, the group's leader gave a speech threatening Saudi Arabia with strong response if it continues the airstrikes.

Meanwhile, pro-Houthi and pro-Saleh forces advanced on southern areas in Aden, Abyan and Shabwah. Fierce clashes ensued and hundreds were reportedly killed and wounded.

While the airstrikes continue to hit pro-Houthi/Saleh military bases in different parts of Yemen, civilians have been killed and wounded. On the first day of this campaign, when the Sanʻa airport and al-Dailami airbase were bombed, 27 people were reportedly killed including 15 children. All schools in Sanʻa have been closed, while students of Sanʻa University were called in to continue.

Pakistan’s prime minister was quick to join the Saudi-led coalition and pledged to send ground troops, but later backpedaled under pressure from the public and government officials. A high-level Pakistani delegation is currently in Riyadh, and the government has promised not to commit forces to Decisive Storm before the issue is discussed at an all-party conference. Pakistan and other countries, including China, have acted to evacuate their citizens from Yemen, while the Indian premier asked Saudi Arabia to help his country evacuate Indian nationals. Sudan is currently reviewing how to evacuate its nationals, and its president confirmed he may ground troops to Yemen.