Saudi prince's offer of luxury car to pilots draws flak

Smoke rises during an air strike on an army weapons depot on a mountain overlooking Yemen's capital Sanaa.

A Saudi Arabian prince's promise to give a free Bentley to every pilot involved in the Yemen air strikes has been met with both applause and derision online.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched the air war on March 26 in an attempt to restore the authority of Yemeni president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee abroad last month as rebels swept across the country.

The promise came from Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal (right), 60, who is a member of the ruling Saudi royal family.

He has an estimated fortune of US$23 billion (S$30 billion), Mail Online reported.

Prince Al-Waleed, who owns a US$300 million stake in Twitter, apparently made the pledge on social media, but the post has since been deleted, the International Business Times reported.

The offer immediately split opinion.

More than 28,000 people shared his post and over 5,000 liked it.

The prince was hailed for his "generosity" and several Saudis commented that the pilots deserved luxury automobiles and much more for their military service, BBC reported.


But many outside Saudi Arabia, particularly in Yemen, found his offer offensive.

"100 Bentley cars to 100 pilots who bombed Yemen. Not (a) single ambulance to its hospitals they devastated," remarked one Yemeni on Twitter.

Another Yemeni who had previously shared photos showing the destruction of his home following a Saudi air strike tweeted: "Prince Al Waleed gave 100 Bentleys to Saudi pilots. I got my apartment blown up. Yet I bet my spirits are higher than all those pilots."

Others pointed to the disparity between people's lives in Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, and those who live in relatively rich Saudi Arabia.

"So that's what it's all about, what was it 100 or 200 lives for a Bentley, that's how cheap human life is," a Jordanian tweeted.

It is not the first time the prince has offered expensive cars to Saudis.

In 2013, he gave 25 Bentleys to members of a Saudi football team.

In the same year, he threatened to boycott Forbes magazine for underestimating his wealth.


Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition warplanes launched new strikes in Yemen yesterday, despite a demand by rebels for a complete halt to the raids as a condition for UN-sponsored peace talks, AFP reported.

The regional alliance on Tuesday declared an end to the first phase of its operations against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, but vowed to keep hitting them with targeted bombing when necessary.

After ending the first phase, the coalition said the campaign would enter a second phase called Operation Renewal of Hope, focusing on resuming political talks, aid deliveries and "fighting terrorism".

Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington on Wednesday: "The Houthis should be under no illusion that we will use force in order to stop them taking over Yemen by aggressive actions. So that will not change."

The alliance said it had destroyed the rebels' missile and air capabilities, but the Houthis and their allies still control the capital Sanaa and swathes of the country.

The bombing raids have killed at least 944 people and injured more than 3,400.

Medical and aid organisations say the air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

This article was first published on April 24, 2015.
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