Saudi Arabia has bombed key military installations in Yemen after announcing a regional coalition to oust the Shiite rebels who forced the country’s embattled president to flee.
Some of yesterday’s strikes hit positions in the country’s capital, Sanaa and flattened a number of homes near the international airport.
The airstrikes, which had the support of nine other countries, drew a strong reaction from Iran.
It said the operation was an “invasion” and a “dangerous step” that will worsen the crisis.
Iran “condemns the air strikes against Yemen this morning that left some innocent Yemenis wounded and dead and considers this action a dangerous step”, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
She said military action would complicate and worsen the crisis in Yemen.
She added: “This invasion will bear no result but expansion of terrorism and extremism throughout the whole region.” The Saudi airstrikes came hours after president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled Yemen by sea after rebels pushed their way toward the southern port city of Aden where he had taken refuge.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya News reported that the kingdom had deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units in what it called Operation Decisive Storm.
The Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, were calling on their supporters to protest in the streets of Sanaa, Yemen’s Houthi-controlled state news agency Saba reported.
TV stations affiliated with the rebels and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, showed the aftermath of the strikes in what appeared to be a residential area.
Al-Masirah TV, affiliated with the Houthis, quoted the ministry of health as saying that 18 civilians were killed and 24 were injured.
Yemen Today, a TV station affiliated with Mr Saleh, showed hundreds of residents congregating around a number of flattened houses, some chanting “death to al-Saud”, in reference to the kingdom’s royal family.
Residents said at least three bodies were pulled from the rubble. There were traces of blood between the bricks.
Ahmed al-Sumaini said an entire alley near to the airport was wiped out in the strikes overnight.
He said people ran out from their homes in the middle of the night.
“This was a surprise. I was asleep and I was jolted out of my bed,” he said, waving a piece of shrapnel.
Targets also included the camp of Yemeni special forces, which is controlled by generals loyal to Saleh.
Yemeni security officials said the targets also included a missile base in Sanaa that was controlled by the Houthis earlier this year. One of the security officials said the strikes also targeted the fuel depot at the base.
The Houthis said Saudi jets hit the military base, known as al-Duleimi, and that they responded with anti-aircraft missiles.
The strikes also hit the al- Annad air base in the southern Lahj province.
About 100 US military advisers withdrew over the weekend from that base, where they had been leading a drone campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemen foreign minister Riad Yassin told Saudi television the air strikes were welcomed.
He said: “I hope the Houthis listen to the sound of reason. With what is happening, they forced us into this.”