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Al-Araby al-Jadeed/AFP

Egypt-Saudi discuss joint military exercise amid Yemen war

A football stadium in Ibb was also hit by Saudi airstrikes [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2015

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Egypt says it and Saudi Arabia had discussed holding a "major military manoeuvre" in Saudi Arabia with other Gulf states, as the war in Yemen rages.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes continued on Wednesday against Yemeni rebels who were hit yesterday with United Nations sanctions.

Warplanes targeted Houthi militia forces, as well as their allies, factions of the Yemeni military loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Positions were hit in Aden, where Houthi-Saleh forces are continuing their attempt to take the southern city, in the face of fierce local resistance.

Seven people were reported to have died in Aden overnight during the fighting, military sources and medics said.

The al-Watada army base in Khawlan, near Sanaa, was also reportedly hit overnight, locals told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Meanwhile, in Sanaa and elsewhere across Yemen, electricity continued to be cut as a result of fighting in resource-rich Marib province, leading to increased fears over the humanitarian situation in the country, with weeks of fighting leaving several hundred people dead.

Yesterday, the UN Security Council voted 14-0, with only Russia abstaining, on a resolution calling for the Houthis to “immediately and unconditionally end violence” and “withdraw their forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital Sanaa”.

In addition to this, the resolution included imposing an arms embargo on the Houthis and their allies, calling upong member states – particularly states neighbouring Yemen – to “inspect... all cargo to Yemen, in their territory, including seaports and airports”.

Other sanctions imposed by the resolution include “a general assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, on Abdelmalik al-Houthi... and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of the president who stepped down in 2011”.

Saleh had pre-empted the Security Council resolution by calling for “a solution to get out of the Yemen quagmire”, adding in an indirect message to the Saudi-led ten-state coalition: “if you want to send a message to Iran, you should not do so by destroying Yemen”. 

Egypt-Saudi joint exercise

In a meeting between the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Saudi defence minister, the two countries agreed to consider holding “large-scale” military manoeuvres with the possibility of launching a ground operation against Houthi-Saleh forces in Yemen.

“It was decided to form a joint military committee to look into a large-scale strategic manoeuvre on Saudi territory,” Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's office said late on Tuesday after the meeting.

The passing of the resolution appears to be a diplomatic setback for Iran, whose foreign minister, Mohamed Javad Zarif, is visiting Spain, having visited Pakistan last week before the South Asian ally decided to not get involved militarily in the Yemen conflict.

Tehran had promoted a four-point peace proposal, which included a ceasefire in Yemen, allowing humanitarian aid to enter the country, and then the start of an internal Yemeni dialogue leading to the formation of a national coalition government.

However, an Algerian diplomatic source told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Iran had attempted to push Algeria to mediate and push the proposal from their side.

The Iranian deputy foreign minister, Mortada Sarmadi, visited Algeria last week and met with top Algerian officials, including Prime Minister Abdelmalik Sallal, offering to help promote and implement any initiative proposed by Algeria.

The Algerians rejected the idea, with the diplomatic source saying that his country did not see itself as the right mediator to solve the Yemeni crisis.  

Three weeks after the launch of Operation Decisive Storm on March 26 Houthi-Saleh have continued to advance in the south and west of Yemen, leading to speculation that the Saudi-led coalition may need to put boots on the ground in Yemen, something that has raised fears of a protracted conflict and casualties on both sides.

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