US speeds weapons to aid Saudi-led Yemen campaign

By Ahmed Al-Haj and Brian Rohan, AP

SANAA, Yemen–The United States is speeding up weapons deliveries to the Saudi-led coalition launching airstrikes against rebels in Yemen, as the first boat carrying medical aid to the country since the start of the air campaign arrived Wednesday at the southern port city of Aden, where heavy clashes were underway.

Speaking a day earlier in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken blamed the violence in Yemen on the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, saying that the U.S. is committed to defending Saudi Arabia.

Intelligence sharing includes making available raw aerial imagery the coalition could use to better strike anti-Hadi forces, said a U.S. defense official who was not authorized to comment publicly. Blinken said the U.S. and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council must coordinate closely and press all parties to seek a political solution.

The fighting in Yemen pits Hadi and his allies against the Houthis and military units loyal to Saleh. Shiite powerhouse Iran supports the Houthis but denies arming them.

The U.S. says that the chaos has allowed the local al-Qaida branch, which it considers the world’s most dangerous wing of the group, to make ��great gains�� on the ground, causing Washington to rethink how it prevents it from launching attacks in the West.

Speaking from Tokyo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the collapse of the central government in Yemen makes it harder to conduct counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida, which has ambitions to strike Western targets, including the United States. Regarding the weapons deliveries, he said it involved ��some resupply of equipment and munitions�� to Saudi Arabia.

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday of an unfolding humanitarian crisis, saying at least 560 people, including dozens of children, have been killed, mostly in the air campaign and ground battles. The aid group said that more than 1,700 people have been wounded and another 100,000 have fled their homes as fighting has intensified over the past three weeks.

The first boat carrying medical aid to Yemen since the coalition began bombing arrived in Aden on Wednesday, international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said.

The group’s head of mission in Yemen, Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, said the ship carried some 2.5 tons of supplies from Djibouti for its hospital in Aden.

Also Wednesday, Human Rights Watch cited witnesses as saying that Houthi forces fired into crowds of demonstrators in the cities of Taiz and Torba the day before the bombing campaign began, killing at least 7 people and wounding over 80 others. The New York-based group called on Houthi authorities to investigate the incidents.