Saudi airstrikes hit Yemen’s Houthis after Jeddah attack
A Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has unleashed a barrage of airstrikes on the capital and a strategic Red Sea town, officials said on Saturday.
At least eight people were killed.
The nightly airstrikes on Sanaa and Hodeida – both held by the Houthis – came a day after the rebels attacked an oil depot in the Saudi city of Jeddah, their most publicized assault against the kingdom yet.
Brigadier General Turki al-Malki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the strikes targeted “sources of threat” to Saudi Arabia, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Footage released online showed flames and plumes of smoke over Sanaa and Hodeidah.
Associated Press reporters in the Yemeni capital heard loud explosions that rocked residential buildings.
The Houthis said the coalition airstrikes hit a power plant, a fuel station and the state-run social insurance office in the capital.
A Houthi news office said an airstrike hit homes for Social Insurance Office guards, killing at least eight people and injuring four others, including women and children.
The office shared footage it said showed the aftermath of the airstrike. It showed debris in the courtyard of a social insurance office with the shattered windows of a nearby multi-story building.
In Hodeidah, the Houthi media office said the coalition struck oil facilities in violation of a 2018 ceasefire agreement that ended months of fighting in Hodeidah, which controls about 70% of the commercial and humanitarian imports from Yemen. The strikes also hit nearby Port Salif, also on the Red Sea.
The coalition spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the Houthis’ claims.
The escalation risks complicating efforts by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to reach a humanitarian truce during the holy month of Ramadan in early April.
It comes as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plans to host the warring parties for talks later this month. The Houthis, however, dismissed Riyadh – the Saudi capital where the GCC is headquartered – as a venue for talks, which are expected to include a range of Yemeni factions.
Yemen’s brutal war erupted in 2014 after the Houthis captured Sanaa. Months later, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a devastating air campaign to dislodge the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government.
The conflict has in recent years become a regional proxy war that has killed more than 150,000 people, including more than 14,500 civilians. It has also created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Friday’s Houthi attack came ahead of a Formula One race in the kingdom on Sunday, raising concerns about Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend itself against Iran-backed rebels.
Friday’s attack targeted the same fuel depot that the Houthis had attacked in recent days – the bulk plant in northern Jiddah, located just southeast of the city’s international airport and which is a hub crucial for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca.