The Saudi-led military coalition Thursday launched a major operation against Yemen’s Houthis, warning it would target the rebel leadership after missile and drone attacks on the kingdom.
Residents of rebel-held capital, Sanaa, told AFP they heard large explosions and saw plumes of smoke on Wednesday. This follows at least a dozen air strikes on the international airport, close to an air force base.
The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels said the coalition launched 57 air strikes on Sanaa and their northern stronghold of Saada, according to the Yemini television channel Al-Masirah.
There were no official reports of casualties, but the rebels said a woman and girl were killed in Saada. Additionally, a number of children were wounded.
“The operation came in response to the threat of the Houthi militia after they launched ballistic missiles as well as drones from the occupied capital Sanaa, as well as Saada,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh. “The terrorist leaders of the Houthi militia will be pursued and held accountable. Targeting civilians and civilian facilities is a red line.”
The coalition strike effectively ends a unilateral ceasefire it declared in April to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the coalition intercepted and destroyed drones and ballistic missiles launched into the kingdom by the Houthis, including one fired towards Riyadh.
At Maliki’s press conference, Saudi officials displayed remnants of intercepted missiles and drones they said were supplied by Iran to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Iran denies these claims.
The crisis escalated after the Saudi-led coalition intervened to support Yemen’s internationally-recognized government.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is devastated by conflict and malnutrition. In addition, the country also faces the coronavirus pandemic that its health system is ill-equipped to handle.