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After Foreign Intervention, Yemen Faces Additional Uncertainty


Now let's go to Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. As we've heard, it is in control of the Houthi militia, and it is said to be a target of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies. Jonathan Bartolozzi of the NGO Mercy Corps is in the Yemeni capital. He's on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.


INSKEEP: Can you describe what you've seen and heard over the last 24 hours or so?

BARTOLOZZI: Yes. Well, many of us were awoken by sounds of explosions around 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Explosions in the city are not too rare. And when people discovered what was actually going on, there was a lot of shock. Airstrikes from foreign militaries is not something that Yemen is used to seeing.

INSKEEP: To the extent you've been able to learn, what was targeted?

BARTOLOZZI: Well, it appears as though the targets were mostly military and strategic. Anything that was a military camp, where military equipment or supplies were stored were the main targets. Now, those were not in the deep center of the city, but on the outskirts where most of the military camps are.

INSKEEP: Now, you're putting this in the past tense. Was this one series of explosions and airstrikes, or has it continued for a while?

BARTOLOZZI: So it began at around 2:30 in the morning, and it was constant until around 5. And by 6 o'clock or so, when the sun came up, everything was quiet again. We could hear the birds chirping. Life seemed quite back to normal.

INSKEEP: Well, now, there's a question. What is normal for Sana'a right now?

BARTOLOZZI: Well, people living in Sana'a have learned to live with uncertainty, both from a political perspective but also for their own well-being and their families'. Most recently, we had a lot of embassies shut down. And when this took place, a lot of aid was also suspended and this affected many people's lives. But life goes on on the streets today. Certainly traffic is much less than it would be on a normal day. And people are planning a demonstration today here in Sana'a against the airstrikes and the foreign intervention. But Yemenis are very resilient, and they learn to live with these realities of uncertainty.

INSKEEP: Well, you mentioned that demonstration against the airstrikes. Do you have a sense of whether this militia has very much popular support, this group that Saudi Arabia and its allies want to get out of there?

BARTOLOZZI: Well, this is a big question on many people's minds today. Will the foreign intervention unite Yemen and unite people from different political parties that had began to split further apart? And now having a common enemy perhaps would allow them to come together.

INSKEEP: Well, it's interesting that you would hear people describing the Saudis as a common enemy since they say they are coming in support of the legitimate government of Yemen.

BARTOLOZZI: Yes, well, some people will say that Saudi Arabia is the one thing that all Yemenis will agree on as being an evil for their country. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen financially. And there is this love-hate relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is unclear whether Saudi Arabia was looking to simply push the Houthis and show force so that they could come to the negotiating table or if they actually just want to take them out of the picture completely. And will that mean a prolonged conflict within Yemen? And what will that mean for the average person who is really just trying to provide for his or her family?

INSKEEP: Jonathan Bartolozzi of the NGO Mercy Corps in Sana'a, Yemen. Thank you very much.

BARTOLOZZI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.