Saudi coalition launches airstrikes on Yemeni capital

The Saudi military coalition fighting Yemen’s Iran-oriented Houthi movement said on Sunday that it carried out air strikes on Houthi’s military targets in Sanaa and other regions after the group launched armed drones against Saudi Arabia.

The coalition, which said it had destroyed 10 armed drones, said in a statement on Saudi state media that “civilians and civilian objects in the kingdom are a red line”.

The coalition did not specify places in the kingdom. The US consulate in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah issued a statement citing reports of suspected attacks and explosions on Sunday near Jeddah and the southern city of Khamis Mushait.

In the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, a Reuters witness reported several airstrikes. Plums of black smoke were visible near a military compound near Sanaa University. Houthi-powered Al Masirah TV said coalition warplanes bombed al-Nahda and Attan districts.

The Houthis, who have been fighting the coalition since it intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015, recently intensified cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Fighting has also intensified on the ground in Yemen in the Marib and Taiz regions.

The escalation comes as the United States and the United Nations increase diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire to pave the way for a resumption of UN-sponsored political talks to end the conflict, which is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi state media on Sunday quoted the coalition as saying that the Houthis were encouraged after the new US government revoked Washington’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization in February.

Last week, the Ministry of Finance imposed sanctions on two Houthi military leaders after the movement increased its attacks on Saudi cities and its offensive in Marib.

The Houthis, who ousted the internationally recognized government from power in Sanaa in late 2014, deny being Tehran puppets, saying they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

The war, in a military standstill for several years, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven Yemen to starvation.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday that Al-Thawra Hospital in Taiz treated 28 people injured in intense clashes since Wednesday and that the hospital itself was shot and injured three, including a 12-year-old boy.

In Marib, hundreds of warriors from both sides have been killed.

(REUTERS)