The Saudi-led coalition pounded Shiite rebels in Yemen on Tuesday, killing 20 in a city in the country’s west as the civilian death toll rose to 38 from airstrikes the day before in the capital, Sanaa, officials said.
The U.S. backed campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies, mainly Gulf Arab countries, is aimed at crushing the rebels, known as Houthis, who have taken over Sanaa and areas in northern Yemen and have been pressing an offensive to expand their gains in the rest of the country, including the southern port city of Aden.
The ground fighting and the airstrikes have pushed Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, to the brink of collapse. The fighting has also taken on the appearance of a proxy war between Iran, the Shiite powerhouse backing the Houthis, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming the Houthis — a claim both Tehran and the rebels deny, though the Islamic Republic has provided political and humanitarian support to the Shiite group. For its part, the Shiite Iran has long accused Saudi Arabia of supporting Sunni militants, including the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
In remarks Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the airstrikes in Yemen were prompted by the Sunni kingdom’s failures elsewhere, causing what he called a “mental imbalance.”
The remarks came a day after U.S. Navy said aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was steaming toward the waters off Yemen to beef up security and join other American ships that are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels.
The deployment comes after a U.N. Security Council resolution last week imposed an arms embargo on Houthi leaders.
Story by the Associated Press.