Iran's Khamenei accuses Saudi Arabia of genocide over Yemen airstrikes

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Reuters)
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has attacked the air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying the operation which has caused civilian deaths amounts to genocide.

“The aggression by Saudi Arabia against Yemen and its innocent people was a mistake,” Khamenei said in a speech on Iranian TV. “This is a crime and genocide that can be prosecuted in the international courts.”

The Supreme Leader stressed that Saudi Arabia and its allies will never achieve victory in the conflict with Houthi fighters, who took control of Yemen’s capital Sana’a in 2014 and are now on the offensive in the southern part of the country.

READ MORE: Iran sends warships to monitor Yemen's coast

“Saudi will absolutely lose in the military operation against Yemen. It will definitely get hurt and eat crow,” he said.

According to Al-Manar News, Khamenei also compared Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen to Israel’s military operation in Gaza last summer.

“The Zionists are more powerful than the Saudis. However, they could not accomplish their goals in their military operation against Gaza,” he said, adding that Gaza “is a small region while Yemen is a big country and there are millions of Yemeni people there.”

Khamenei’s words were echoed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said on Thursday that airstrikes against the Houthis were “wrong” and urged the nations involved in the conflict to think “about an end to the war, about ceasefire and humanitarian assistance to the suffering people of Yemen."

Saudi Arabia initiated air strikes against the Shia Muslim Houthis two weeks ago, with the aim of suppressing the rebels and reinstating deposed Sunni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that 643 people have been killed and 2,226 injured in the Yemen conflict.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia rejects all-inclusive arms embargo on Yemen proposed by Russia

Russia has supported Iran’s call for an immediate halt to the Saudi-led bombing as soon as the airstrikes began in Yemen.

Earlier this week, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the coalition’s actions do “not have any foundation in international law” as the airstrikes were launched without consultations with the United Nations.

Moscow also submitted a draft resolution to the UN, demanding "regular and obligatory humanitarian pauses in the airstrikes by the coalition” in an effort to quell the violence that is impacting civilians.

Meanwhile, the US is widening its support for the air campaign in Yemen, which is led by its key Arab allies, the Saudis.

The US military has begun air refueling operations for the Saudi-led airstrikes, the Pentagon said Wednesday, adding that supplying ammunition to the coalition members was also on the agenda.

Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Iran of meddling in Yemen, stressing that Tehran "needs to recognize that the US is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines — international boundaries — in other countries."