US steps up arms for Saudi campaign in Yemen
US official says Saudi Arabia sending a “strong message to the Houthis that they cannot overrun Yemen by force”.
The US is supplying intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition bombing rebel positions in Yemen and will expedite arms supplies to the alliance, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said.
Blinken told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia was sending a “strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force”.
“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation centre,” Blinken said.
At the Pentagon in Washington, Colonel Steve Warren, spokesperson, said the US was looking to deliver munitions to its allies, including by accelerating pre-existing orders.
RELATED OPINION: Yemen’s shock and awe
“It’s a combination of pre-existing orders made by our partner nations and some new requirements as they expend munitions,” Warren said, asked about Blinken’s remarks.
The Houthi rebels swept into the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September and have since tried to expand their control across the country. In February, they placed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi under house arrest before he fled to his power base in the southern city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.
Blinken’s comments came hours after the International Committee of the Red Cross flew medical personnel for the first time into Yemen amid delays that have worsened the humanitarian situation in Aden.
Fierce fighting between militias loyal to Hadi and and the Houthis has been raging in the port city for days.
Russia has presented a draft resolution at the UN Security Council seeking “humanitarian pauses” in the air strikes against the rebels.
The Red Cross warned on Tuesday of a “catastrophic” situation in Aden, as the rebels and their allies made a new push on a port in the central Mualla district of the city but were forced back by Hadi loyalists, witnesses said.
Naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, which launched air strikes on March 26 in support of Hadi’s beleaguered government, shelled rebel positions across the city, witnesses added.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Mouallimi told Al Jazeera that the Houthis were responsible for civilian casualties.
“We have a situation where Houti militia are operating from heavily populated areas…most of the casualties that we know are happening in civilian areas that are being shelled by the Houthis and their allies. As far as we are concerned we are doing everything possible to make sure medical supplies are being delivered,” he said
More than a 100,000 people have fled their homes after the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in Yemen, according to UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for children welfare.
A spokesman from the agency, Rajat Madhok, told Al Jazeera that most of those who have been displaced are women and children.
“Most displacements have taken place from and within al-Dhale, Abyan, Amran, Saada, Hajja. The displaced persons are mostly being hosted with relatives,” Madhok said.
In a statement published on Tuesday, UNICEF said 74 children caught up in fighting had been killed and another 44 maimed since March 26.
“These are conservative figures and UNICEF believes that the total number of children killed is much higher,” the statement read.
The agency’s Yemen representative, Julien Harneis, said children were paying an “intolerable” price, and said more needed to be done to protect them.
“These children should be immediately afforded special respect and protection by all parties to the conflict, in line with international humanitarian law,” Harneis said.