Middle East Updates Saudi-led Air Strikes Destroy Most Houthi Missiles, Official Says

Yemen FM: 'Very possible' ground forces will be needed; Arab League meet convenes in Egypt amid Yemen airstrike campaign; Saudi-led forces reportedly strike Houthi military column in south Yemen; Saudi Arabia's navy evacuates diplomats from Aden.

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An arms depot explodes at the Jabal Hadeed military compound in Yemen's southern port city of Aden March 28, 2015.
An arms depot explodes at the Jabal Hadeed military compound in Yemen's southern port city of Aden March 28, 2015.Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

For Friday's updates, click here

Latest updates:

8:33 P.M. Saudis say tracking Yemen rebel groups headed to border

Saudi Arabia says that multiple groups of Yemeni Shiite rebels are moving toward the two countries' shared border.

The Gulf kingdom is leading a coalition of countries conducting airstrikes against the rebels, known as Houthis. Speaking from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman of the coalition campaign, told reporters that the coalition was tracking at least two rebel groups.

Asiri promises that Saudi Arabia and the coalition "will not allow" the Houthis to cross or threaten the Saudi border. (Reuters)

8:05 P.M. Saudi-led air strikes destroy most Houthi missiles, official says

Air strikes by Saudi-led forces have eliminated most of the ballistic missiles which Houthi fighters captured from Yemen's army, a Saudi military officer said.

"We believe we destroyed most of these capabilities," spokesman for the coalition Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told a news conference in Riyadh. (Reuters)

7:29 P.M. Yemen foreign minister says "very possible" ground forces will be needed

Arab ground forces may be needed in the next phase of a Saudi-led operation against Iranian-allied Houthi fighters in Yemen, Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen said on Saturday.

Asked at an Arab League summit in Egypt whether ground troops would be required, he told reporters: "This is possible. Very possible."

Yaseen also said Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi would stay in an Arab capital until conditions in Yemen allowed him to return there. (Reuters)

5:19 P.M. Arab alliance hits Yemen base holding long-range missiles

A Saudi-led military operation has targeted a base where Iranian-backed Houthi fighters had set up long-range missiles and pointed them towards the southern city of Aden and neighboring countries, a Yemeni official said on Saturday.

The official told Reuters that Yemeni authorities had received information that Iranian experts had brought in parts for the missiles at the base, located south of Sanaa.

Iran denies allegations made by some Yemeni and Western officials that it provides money and training to the Shi'ite Muslim Houthis, whose rapid territorial advances triggered an Arab military campaign against them. (Reuters)

3:15 P.M. Explosions rock southern Yemen arms depot

Explosions rocked Aden's largest arms depot, sending flames and smoke into the sky above the southern Yemeni city, witnesses said.

A Reuters correspondent saw fire and explosions at the Jabal Hadeed compound, which is close to residential and commercial properties. There was no immediate word of casualties.

Residents have reported looting at the depot in recent days as Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters challenge forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for control of the south's largest city. (Reuters)

2:16 P.M. UN's Ban Ki-moon: Negotiations only way to prevent long-term conflict in Yemen

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said negotiations are the only way to prevent a long-term conflict in Yemen.

The UN chief made the comments Saturday at the opening session of an Arab summit held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

There's an ongoing campaign of airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen targeting the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies.

Ki-moon also said he was angry and shamed by the failure of the world to stop Syria's raging civil war. He promised to step up diplomatic efforts. (AP)

1:53 P.M. Yemen's embattled president calls for military intervention to continue until Houthis surrender

Yemen's embattled President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi calls on partners to an Arab military coalition to continue their bombing campaign in his country until the Houthi rebels surrender.

"Operation Decisive Storm must continue until the gang of the Houthis surrender," Hadi says in remarks to the opening session of an Arab League summit in Egypt.

"This operation comes to protect the Yemeni people," he adds, referring to the Saudi-led campaign.

Hadi directly challenged Iran in his remarks, calling Houthi rebels "stooges of Iran," directly blaming the Islamic Republic for the chaos there. (DPA)

1:24 P.M. Saudi King Salman vows that military intervention will not stop until Yemen is stable and safe

Saudi King Salman said on Saturday the country's military campaign in Yemen against Houthi fighters would continue until its targets are achieved. (AP) Read full story here

1:12 P.M. Islamist groups seize major parts of Idlib for first time since Syrian conflict began

Islamist groups including Al-Qaida's Nusra Front have seized major parts of Syria's city of Idlib for the first time since the conflict in the country began, fighters and a monitoring group said on Saturday.

Idlib, a city of 100,000 people, is close to the main strategic highway linking Damascus to Aleppo and is also close to the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad. (Reuters)

12:57 P.M. Egypt's Sissi calls for united Arab force to confront regional security threats

Egypt's president has called for the creation of a joint Arab military force as it and other countries launch airstrikes against Shi'ite rebels in Yemen.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi made the comment Saturday while addressing a summit of Arab leaders in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sissi also says Arab countries are facing an unprecedented threat to their stability and identity. (AP) Read full story here

12:53 P.M. Kuwait emir tells Arab League summit: Houthi fighters in Yemen pose regional threat

Kuwait's Emir told an Arab summit in Egypt that Houthi fighters in Yemen posed a threat to the region, as Saudi Arabia led a military operation against them.

"Rapid developments underway in Yemen pose a threat to our security," said Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. (Reuters) Read full story here

12:31 P.M. Arab League meet convenes in Egypt amid Yemen airstrike campaign

Arab leaders are meeting in a key summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, days after a Saudi-led, 10-nation alliance began a campaign of airstrikes against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen.

Saturday's summit was preceded by a meeting between Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Yemen's embattled leader Abed Raboo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi fled the Yemeni port city of Aden earlier this week in the face of a military push by the rebels, also known as the Houthis, and their allies, forces loyal to his ousted predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Of the Arab League's 22 heads of state, 14 were in attendance Saturday as the meeting began. (Reuters) Read full story here

11:55 A.M. UN evacuating staff from Yemen capital due to security situation

The United Nations began evacuating international staff from Sanaa on Saturday due to the security situation in the Yemeni capital, where a Saudi-led air campaign has been targeting Shi'ite Muslim Houthi forces, a UN source said.

The source said the staff, numbering more than 100, were heading to the airport and were expected to relocate to several countries including Jordan.

United Nations Special envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar was due to join UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the annual Arab summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the source added. (Reuters)

10:57 A.M. Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to capture pilot from downed Saudi-coalition jet

Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday claimed to have shot down a warplane from a Saudi-led coalition and captured its pilot during a bombing mission in the capital Sana'a.

The Houthis' anti-aircraft guns downed the jet in northern Sana'a and captured its Sudanese pilot, an official in the Shiite rebel movement told DPA, failing to provide further detail.

The claim came hours after Saudi Arabia said that an allied F-15 crashed on Friday over the Red Sea south of Yemen due to a technical problem.

Citing a Defense Ministry official, the state-run Saudi news agency SPA said the two airmen aboard the plane had ejected and been rescued with US assistance.

It remains unclear whether the two incidents are related. (DPA)

10:13 A.M. Saudi-led forces reportedly strike Houthi military column heading to Aden, Yemen

Saudi-led air forces attacked a convoy of Houthi armored vehicles, tanks and military trucks travelling on the coastal road from the Arabian Sea town of Shaqra towards Aden in southern Yemen, residents said.

The Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels on Friday opened a new front in their drive to topple Western and Saudi-allied President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, capturing Shaqra in preparation to march on Aden from the east.

Residents said war planes from the Saudi-led coalition struck the convoy early on Saturday on the al-Mukalla-Aden road, hitting a number of vehicles.

There was no immediate comment from the Houthis on the strike and no details on any casualties were available. (Reuters)

9:45 A.M. Saudi state TV: Saudi Arabia's navy evacuates diplomats from Aden, Yemen

Saudi Arabia's navy began an operation to evacuate dozens of Saudi and foreign diplomats from the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, state television reported on Saturday.

"The Saudi Royal Navy implemented an operation called Hurricane to evacuate dozens of diplomats, including Saudis, from Aden," a news ticker on the state news broadcaster read. (Reuters)

9:01 A.M. Saudi Arabia blames 'technical failure' for Yemen jet crash

Saudi Arabia says a "technical failure" forced two pilots in an F-15 to eject over waters south of Yemen during a mission amid a bombing campaign targeting Shiite rebels in the country.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported early Saturday that the pilots were in "good health" after ejecting Thursday.

A U.S. Defense Department official told The Associated Press that an American helicopter flew Thursday from neighboring Djibouti to the Gulf of Aden and rescued the airmen. The official says the destroyer USS Sterett coordinated assets from the U.S. naval base in Djibouti and the amphibious transport dock USS New York.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to brief journalists by name. (AP)

7:59 A.M. War planes attack Sanaa, Yemen throughout night, strikes finish around dawn

War planes attacked Yemen's capital Sanaa through the night on Friday and stopped around dawn, residents of the city told Reuters on Saturday.

"There were planes strikes all through the night and stopped at dawn," said a resident in Sanaa, adding that explosions were heard in an area west of the capital were a government national guard base was located.

There was no detail on whether the planes belonged to the Saudi-led coalition which launched attacks against Yemen's Shiite Houthi group on Thursday. (Reuters)

3:15 A.M. U.S. rescues two Saudi pilots after ejecting over Gulf of Aden

The U.S. military rescued two Saudi pilots who ejected from their F-15 fighter jet over the Gulf of Aden, a U.S. defense official said on Friday.

He said the two were rescued in international waters by a helicopter from Djibouti after Saudi Arabia requested assistance. (Reuters)

3:12 A.M. Obama expresses support for Saudi military action in Yemen to King Salman

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Saudi King Salman on Friday and reaffirmed Obama's support for the military action taken in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, the White House said in a statement.

Obama and King Salman agreed that their goal is to achieve lasting stability in Yemen through a negotiated political solution, the statement said. Obama also underscored his commitment to Saudi Arabia's security. (Reuters)

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