Saudis Intercept Yemen Bound Iranian Jet, Bomb Runway To Stop It

Illustration for article titled Saudis Intercept Yemen Bound Iranian Jet, Bomb Runway To Stop It

As the conflict in Yemen intensifies, fully armed Royal Saudi Air Force F-15Cs are caught on video intercepting a civilian Airbus A310. The Mahan Air jet was en route from Iran to Yemen, supposedly on a relief mission to deliver humanitarian aid. Apparently the Saudis didn’t believe that.

Iranians claim that proper clearance was acquired for the flight to Yemen via Oman and pilots ignored Saudi radio communications demanding the aircraft land at an alternate airport, one that just so happens to be under Saudi control.

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Despite the imminent threat of multiple F-15s proudly displaying their armament of AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles, along with range extending drop tanks, the flight continued to the airport in Sana’a under the watchful eye of the Saudi escort.

Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, told Reuters that the airport was bombed after the Iranian aircraft refused to coordinate with the coalition and the pilot ignored orders to divert. Iran’s state news agency IRNA said the plane was carrying food and medical aid to the citizens of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital.

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It is reported that Saudi jets bombed the runway at the Sana’a airport rendering it unusable. As a result, Iranian flight had to finally turn around and return to Iran. The bombing set ablaze at least one cargo aircraft as well as one civilian airliner.

Extensive damage to the airport has also restricted other humanitarian flights to access the area. As the civil war rages on and the impoverished country sinks deeper into a humanitarian emergency, and massive holes destroying the airport in the heart of the region only serves to hamper further relief efforts. It also appears that the airport in Hodeida, near Yemen’s western coast along the Red Sea, was also bombed, with its runways left cratered.

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We are trying to confirm that both airports were in fact attacked by the Saudi-led coalition jets in an attempt to stop the Iranian cargo jet from landing. Currently, the timeline is unclear so it remains uncertain if the bombing of the airport in Hodeida is directly related to the intercept and the subsequent bombing of the main airport in Sana’a.

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Hodeida is less than a hundred miles away from Sana’a, and if it was operational at the time the Iranian flight originally departed, it could very likely have been a secondary divert field, deep in Houthi controlled territory, for which the Airbus could land and unload its cargo, whatever that cargo may have truly been.

Saudi Arabia has been leading air strikes targeting Shiite Houthi militia for the last month. The Houthi militia controls most of western Yemen including Sana’a and have a strong relationship with Iran.

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via The Aviationist

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DISCUSSION

The Houthi militia controls most of western Yemen including Sana’a and have a strongrelationship with Iran.

Ideologically? somewhat. Materially? Not so much.

A lot of western reporting is trying to conflate this conflict into a shia-sunni conflict, whereas it’s much more accurate to portray it as civil war; the Houthis had legitimate grievances to settle with the government (albeit now they’re no better that what they replaced).

I think a lot of this has to do with Saudi paranoia about Iran, but I’m stumped why the media is so invested in making this a ‘shia-sunni’ discussion. Maybe it’s just because it fits into the narrative of what’s going on in the middle east better, despite how inaccurate it may be.

EDIT: Further to this, while the Houthis follow a particular branch of Shia Islam, it’s also not entirely accurate to lump it in with Iran’s interpretation of Shia Islam.