Saudis expand air campaign against rebels in Yemen (dpa German Press Agency)

Sana’a (dpa) – A Saudi-led coalition expanded airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels and allied forces on Friday for the second straight day of an air campaign turning the impoverished country into an arena of rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In the energy-rich province of Mareb in eastern Yemen, allied warplanes pounded an air base controlled by troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Shiite Houthis, local tribesmen said.
The strikes destroyed a radar station inside the base located in the vicinity of the Safer oilfield, they added.
“Work in oil installations in the area were halted due to the strikes,” a tribal source told dpa by phone.
The military operation, the first by Saudi Arabia in Yemen since 2009, sent oil prices jumping by around 5 per cent on Thursday amid fears that the crude supplies from the region could be disrupted.
However, the prices fell on Friday, with Brent crude dropping by 1.18 dollars to 57.99 dollars per barrel.
In the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Friday, allied jets Friday bombed the rebel-held presidential palace in southern Sana’a and military facilities manned by pro-Saleh troops around the city.
As sounds of explosions could be heard across Sana’a, hundreds of families fled the city to safer areas.
Independent news site Barakish. Net, citing unnamed military officials, reported that an allied reconnaissance plane had been shot down in western Sana’a. The report could not be verified.
Allied warplanes, meanwhile, bombed the rebel-controlled Anad air base around 50 kilometres north of the southern port city of Aden, according to local officials.
The Houthis’ northern stronghold of Saada near the Saudi border has been repeatedly bombed by allied jets, Yemeni media reported.
At least 39 people have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to the Houthi-controlled Health Ministry.
Gulf countries with Sunni majorities are worried that the collapse of embattled President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government in Yemen may entrench the regional influence of Shiite Iran, which is seen as backing the Houthis.
Iran and Saudi Arabis are also on two opposite sides in Syria’s civil war, now in its fifth year.
Saudi Arabia and several Arab countries unleashed their military action in Yemen after the Houthis and pro-Saleh soldiers pushed into Aden where Hadi took refuge last month after fleeing Sana’a.
Hadi left Aden on Thursday under Saudi protection to attend an Arab League summit starting in Egypt on Saturday.
Saudi military has said that Yemen’s campaign is going well, but without setting a timeframe for its end.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been racked by a power struggle between Hadi and the Houthis in recent months.
In September, the Houthis overran Sana’a and have since advanced across Yemen, sparking deadly fighting with local Sunni tribes and al-Qaeda operatives.