Western-backed coalition under pressure over deadly Yemen strike
Thousands of Yemenis demonstrated in the capital Sanaa yesterday to vent anger at Riyadh, head of a coalition accused of carrying out air strikes that killed at least 140people at a funeral.
The protesters gathered outside offices of the United Nations (UN) in Sanaa and chanted “Death to Al-Saud”, the Saudi royal family.
The rally, dubbed the “Volcano of Rage”, came a day after bombs hit a funeral ceremony in the capital, in one of the deadliest air strikes since the Saudi-led coalition intervened against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen in March last year.
The attack also wounded more than 525 people, the UN said.
“After this massacre, we are more determined to confront the assailants,” prominent rebel chief Mohammed Ali al-Houthi told the crowd in Sanaa.
“Open the fronts with the Saudi enemy immediately.” Demonstrators also chanted anti-US slogans coined in Shiite Iran, which backs Yemen’s rebels but denies providing military support.“Allahu Akbar [God is the greatest].America is the Great Satan,” they shouted.
Yemens’s rebel-allied former president Ali Abdullah Saleh also called for mobilisation along the border with Saudi Arabia to avenge the deadly air strike.
“I call upon all members of the armed forces, security and popular committees [militia] . . . to head to the front, to the borders, to take revenge,” he said in a nationally televised address.
Saleh, who stepped down in 2012following nationwide protests and the Saudi-sponsored peace initiative, commands troops that have defected and sided with Iran-backed Shiite rebels, who overran the Yemeni capital in September 2014.
“We should avenge our casualties. . . those killed in army bases as well as in markets, including heinous massacres, and the greatest of those is the massacre of the [funeral]hall,” he said.
The coalition initially denied responsibility, but later said it was ready to investigate. It has pledged to probe the strikes, while UN chief Ban Ki-Moon urged an impartial investigation into the attack.
The Saudi-led coalition supports Ye m e n ’s internationally-recognized government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the rebels, who seized the capital and swathes of Yemeni territory in 2014.
Saturday’s strike poses more trouble for a Western-backed Arab campaign against Yemen’s Houthis.
The White House announced an immediate review of the US’s support for the military push.
It sets up an awkward test of a Saudi-US partnership already very strained by differences over wars in other Arab lands.