“In appreciation of their role in this operation, I’m honoured to offer 100 Bentley cars to the 100 Saudi [fighter] pilots,” Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal announced to his three million Twitter followers on Tuesday evening.
The prince, once described by Time magazine as the “Arabian Warren Buffett”, later deleted the tweet, but not before it had been re-posted more than 5,000 times.
A Saudi-led campaign of coalition air strikes has pounded rebel positions across Yemen since March 25.
A man stands in a room of a house burnt after an air strike (REUTERS)
Although the kingdom announced an end to the bombing campaign on Tuesday, air strikes were continuing on Thursday. Saudi Arabia characterises this as a new phase of the operation aimed at forcing the resumption of political talks.
But their Shia rebel adversaries – known at the Houthis – have called for a complete halt to the air raids before warring parties return to the negotiating table.
The military operation in Yemen has stoked Saudi nationalism and apparently united a royal family plagued by hidden rivalries.
The kingdom’s social media users hailed the “generosity” of Prince Waleed’s lavish Bentley promise on Wednesday, in some cases suggesting that luxury cars were the least their troops deserved.
But further afield, the prince has been lambasted as out of touch with the horror of a war which has claimed almost 1000 lives to date.
“100 Bentley cars to 100 pilots who bombed Yemen. Not [a] single ambulance to its hospitals they devastated,” tweeted one Yemeni.
In late March, Saudi-led air strikes hit a refugee camp and a civilian food factory, killing more than sixty people. The war has also decimated parts of Yemen’s already-crumbling infrastructure.
Although Saudi media outlets later reported that the prince’s Twitter account had been hacked, he has posted no claim to this effect since the offending tweet was deleted.
Prince Waleed, 60, is the wealthiest member of the Saudi monarchy and among the richest men in the world. He has amassed a fortune valued at nearly $23 billion, with investments in companies like Citigroup, Apple and Time Warner.
This is not the first time that Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has offered Bentleys to reward national service. In April 2014, he reportedly gifted a fleet of the luxury cars to to the players and staff of the Nasr football club, after it won the Saudi football league.