The second-in-command of Yemen’s presidential council yesterday asked for international support to carry out ground operations against the rebels Houthi, alongside US airstrikes against them.

Rebels have stepped up their attacks in the Red Sea in recent weeks, causing a major disruption to world trade, against merchant ships they believe are “connected” to Israel, in a show of “solidarity” with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military has been embroiled in a war with the Islamist movement Hamas.

The US, which last month formed a multinational naval coalition to protect international shipping in this crucial sea lane, has in recent days carried out airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen, which has been at war since 2014.

The forces of the internationally recognized government have since 2014 lost control of much of the country, including the capital. Since March 2015, they have been backed by a military alliance formed by Saudi Arabia to stop the Houthi advance.

For Aydarous al-Zubaidi, vice president of the presidential council, the coalition’s operations are “insufficient” to defeat the Houthis.

The forces that “belong to the legitimate government” of Yemen must be “helped”, Mr Zubaidi told AFP during the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, arguing that “(air) strikes without ground operations are useless ».

He insisted that government forces need foreign aid, especially in the fields of intelligence gathering, equipment and training.

This approach “would allow local forces (…) to join Western efforts,” he added.

This is a “discussion we want to have with the US and the UK”, the two countries that have participated in the aerial bombardment so far, he added.

Yemen’s presidential council — effectively the government — was created in 2022, and Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who had fled to Saudi Arabia, transferred all his powers to the eight-member body based in Aden, a major city in southern Yemen.

Ahmed al-Saleh, a special adviser to the presidential council, also judges that the airstrikes “are not decisive in the battle against the Houthis.”

He in turn asked the US to “support the legitimate government of Yemen and its ground forces and guarantee full coordination” in the fight against the rebels.

In late December, the Houthis and the internationally recognized government agreed to implement a new ceasefire and start a peace process.