The Saudi-led airstrike coalition campaign in Yemen is ending after nearly a month of pounding Iran-allied Houthi rebels, according to a statement read on Arabiya TV.
The coalition achieved its military goals in Yemen through their campaign, "Storm of Resolve," and will now begin a new operation called "Restoring Hope," the statement on the Saudi-owned television station said. Airstrikes will end at midnight Tuesday local time, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri said at a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
With support from the United States, Saudi Arabia led Sunni Arab countries in carrying out more than three weeks of bombing targeting the rebels, who seized much of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. The fighting has thrown Yemen into chaos and forced its president into exile.
The declaration that the bombing mission has come to an end does not mean the fight is over, according to U.S. defense officials. The bombing mission was only the first phase of the campaign, aimed at destroying weapons that posed a potential threat to the Saudi homeland.
Now, according to the officials, the Saudi campaign will continue to target the rebel forces in Yemen with more selective airstrikes and military operations.
"It's like any major military operation. Achieving your first goal does not mean the war is over," one defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
News of the campaign's next phase came a day after senior officials told NBC News that American warships were going to intercept a convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons to the rebels in Yemen. That convoy is now parked in the north Arabian Sea.
Saudi Arabia hopes to restore the Yemeni government, a critical U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda. The Obama administration said on Tuesday having a U.S. aircraft carrier near Yemen will ensure free navigation and commerce in the region.
"Restoring Hope" will aim to deny militia's operational movement and provide civilian protection, the coalition statement said. Asiri did not rule out future aistrikes against the rebels.