Saudi-led coalition air raids hit Sanaa airport

Official at the international airport in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, says UN aid flights halted after the air attacks.

In this file photo from August this year, a member of security forces loyal to Yemen's Houthi rebels stands behind barbed wire at Sanaa International Airport [File: Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says it has carried out air raids on Houthi targets at the international airport in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Saudi state media reported.

The air raids on Monday came just over an hour after the coalition urged civilians and United Nations agencies to evacuate immediately.

The coalition said in a statement it had lifted the protection off specific sites in the airport and carried out attacks on “legitimate military targets” there.

“The operation comes in response to threats and the use of the airport’s facilities to launch cross-border attacks,” it said.

A spokesperson for the UN’s World Food Programme said a UN team was on the ground at the airport to verify the extent of any damage.

Houthi-run Saba media, quoting the head of the Houthi administration’s aviation authority, said the airport had been put out of operation.

An airport official cited by the AFP news agency said UN aid flights had been halted.

“The airport is no longer able to receive aircraft operated by the United Nations or international humanitarian organisations”, the official told AFP.

The raids hit six sites, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki said, including places used for launching attacks by drones, training drone personnel, housing trainers and trainees, and storing drones.

“Destroying these targets will not have any effect on the operational capacity of the airport, and will not affect managing the airspace, the air traffic, and ground handling operations,” he said.

Yemen was plunged into chaos in late 2014 when the Houthi movement overthrew the internationally recognised government from Sanaa and took over large parts in the north of the country.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, aiming to restore the government, but the conflict has long been mired in a deadlock as Saudi forces continue to launch air raids inside Yemen, and the Houthis launch drone and missile attacks on targets across the border in Saudi Arabia.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed due to the conflict, which the UN says has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with about 30 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and protection and more than 13 million in danger of starvation, according to UN estimates.

Since 2016, the Saudi-led coalition has halted air navigation at Sanaa airport except for humanitarian flights belonging to the UN and other international organisations.

On Sunday, the coalition said it had destroyed a drone launched from the airport and aimed at civilians at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah airport in Jizan, near the border with Yemen.

The coalition also said on Sunday it conducted a military operation in Sanaa to destroy workshops and warehouses for drones and other weapons, urging civilians to avoid the area.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies