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Saudi Arabia Shifts Military Campaign In Yemen; Airstrikes Continue

After announcing a more limited military campaign against rebels in Yemen, Saudi Arabia continues to conduct airstrikes that began weeks ago. President Obama says the U.S. has warned Iran, which has condemned the Saudi strikes, not to deliver weapons to rebels in Yemen.

It's unclear what the Saudi-led coalition is planning for the next phase of its military operation in Yemen. The group has said it will protect civilians, ensure the flow of humanitarian aid and secure safe passage for foreigners who want to flee the violence.

NPR's Alice Fordham reports:

"Saudi Arabia announced last night that the military objectives of Operation Decisive Storm had been achieved. In a statement, Saudi authorities said the nearly month-long bombing campaign had protected Yemen from a takeover by rebels known as Houthis, and neutralized ballistic and heavy weapons under Houthi control.

"The focus would now shift to a political process, the statement said, adding that the coalition would still prevent any moves by Houthis.

"Residents of the city of Taizz say Houthis moved this Wednesday morning into an army base which coalition jets bombed shortly afterward. But the capital, Sanaa, which has seen heavy bombing, remains quiet for now."

Alice tells our Newscast unit that in the uncertainty of what's next, "some Yemenis are apprehensive about whether this might entail ground forces." She adds, "The Houthis are still actively fighting to take territory and this could lead to further, heavy clashes."

On Monday, the U.S. Navy sent "the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the guided-missile cruiser Normandy to the Gulf of Aden to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the volatile region remain open and safe," as the Two-Way reported.

The move followed reports that a convoy of Iranian cargo ships was spotted near Yemen's coast.

In an interview Tuesday on MSNBC, President Obama said the U.S. has told Iran, "if there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that's a problem. And we're not sending them obscure messages. We send them very direct messages about it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.