The war in Yemen is getting worse — and a civilian catastrophe is looming

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iuYemen’s chaos is quickly becoming a catastrophe, for its people and the future of the country. As a kaleidoscope of factions are fighting for turf, some Yemenis have become so desperate they have fled by sea to Somalia, of all places.

Can the Houthis hold out against Saudi firepower?

So far they have. The Saudi-led “Operation Decisive Storm” has not yet been decisive. Many airstrikes have targeted Houthi positions in and around the port of Aden, where militia known as Popular Committees and some army units hostile to the Houthis are holding out against the rebels.

They are clinging on to a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the sea. The Saudis have air-dropped weapons and communications equipment to the Popular Committees, and a military spokesman says “We hope in a few days they will control most of the city.”

A Saudi source told CNN’s Nic Robertson that Houthi forces in the city had been cut off from resupply by land. That could shift the balance, but for now the Houthis, a Zaidi Shia minority in Yemen, are proving a tough adversary. Supported by some Yemeni army units, they want to deny the Saudis a bridgehead for ground forces and an enclave to which President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi might return.

Elsewhere in Yemen, Saudi officials say airstrikes have degraded Houthi-controlled military infrastructure, including key buildings in the capital Sanaa. The Royal Saudi Air Force, supported by other Arab states, controls the skies over Yemen. But as conflicts in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere have shown, airstrikes alone rarely inflict defeat.

In what may be a sign that the Saudi-led coalition has some way to go before getting the upper hand, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said Monday that Riyadh had asked for planes, warships and troops.