Saudi-led coalition hits Yemen rebel camp in capital Sanaa

Coalition says the attack was a response to ‘an attempt to transfer weapons’ by the Yemeni rebel group.

The coalition intensified its air raids on Sanaa, targeting the barely operational airport, that is under a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, with exemptions for aid flights [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says it struck a Houthi rebel camp in the capital Sanaa, as it intensified an aerial bombing campaign against the Iran-backed fighters.

The coalition, which backs Yemen’s internationally recognised government against the Houthis in the civil war, said it destroyed weapons storehouses in the rebel-held capital, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“The operation in Sanaa was an immediate response to an attempt to transfer weapons from Al-Tashrifat camp in Sanaa,” it said in a statement on Sunday.

Yemen has been wracked by civil war since 2014 pitting the government against the Houthis who control much of the north.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed as a result of the war, leaving the country in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with sophisticated weapons and its Hezbollah proxy of training the rebels, charges Tehran denies.

On Saturday, the coalition launched a “large-scale” military operation against the Houthis after missiles fired by the rebels killed two people in the kingdom, the first such deaths in three years.

Those air raids on Saturday killed three civilians, including a child and a woman, Yemeni medics told the AFP news agency.

Missiles, drones fired at Saudi Arabia

The coalition has intensified its air raids on Sanaa, targeting earlier this week the airport, whose operations have largely ceased because of a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, with exemptions for aid flights.

The armed group often launches missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia, aimed at its airports and oil infrastructure.

The Saudi-led coalition said on Sunday the Houthi group had fired 430 ballistic missiles and 851 armed drones at Saudi Arabia since the war started in 2015, killing 59 Saudi civilians.

The spokesman of the Saudi alliance, General Turki al-Malki, said the movement had been using Sanaa airport as a base to launch attacks on the kingdom.

Malki shared videos with reporters which he said showed military advisers from the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, helping the Houthis in Yemen. Hezbollah and the Houthis deny the Lebanese group has a role in the war.

Responding to the spokesman’s allegations, journalist and political commentator Hussain al-Bukhaiti told Al Jazeera from Sanaa that “it would be silly” for the Houthis to leave all areas in Yemen to use the Sanaa airport as it is “under 24 hours monitoring by Saudi backed forces”.

“It was silly to see al-Malki talking about what he called ‘outside intervention’ of parties outside of Yemen – as he said Hezbollah and Iran – but we see at the back [at the press conference] flags of 12 countries that are involved in the war,” al-Bukhaiti said.

“What has actually been affecting Yemenis is the intervention of Saudi Arabia inside Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from Western allies to lift a blockade on Yemen ports and Sanaa airport, which contributed largely to create what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Lifting the blockade has also been a condition from the Houthis to start ceasefire talks.

Malki denied there was a blockade on Yemen, adding that Sanaa airport remains open for UN and humanitarian organisations’ flights.

The UN estimates Yemen’s war will have killed 377,000 people by the end of the year, directly and indirectly.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it has been “forced” to cut aid to Yemen due to lack of funds, and warned of a surge in hunger in the country.

More than 80 percent of Yemen’s population of about 30 million requires humanitarian assistance.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies