Saudi Arabia launches major military operation in Yemen

Saudi Arabia on Saturday launched a “full-scale” military operation in Yemen after two people were killed and seven injured in the first fatal attack claimed by the Houthi rebels in the Saudi kingdom in more than three years.

Riyadh has been working in Yemen since 2015 at the head of a coalition to support government forces, at war for seven years against the Houthi rebels. The latter, close to Iran, often strike Saudi territory from Yemen.

Two dead in rebel attack

The kingdom’s civil defense announced that two people, including a Saudi and a Yemeni, were killed in an attack in the Saudi region of Jazan, bordering Yemen. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they launched three ballistic missiles.

“A projectile fell on a commercial building, killing two people, a Saudi and a Yemeni resident. He injured seven civilians, including six Saudis and a Bangladeshi resident, ”said an official Saudi statement. Shortly after the attack, the coalition said it was “preparing for a large-scale military operation” against the rebels. Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree in a statement threatened the Saudi kingdom with “painful operations” if it continued “its aggression and crimes”.

First fatal attack since 2018

While Yemeni rebels regularly launch missiles and drones into neighboring Saudi Arabia, targeting its airports and oil infrastructure, this is the first deadly attack to hit the kingdom since 2018.

Yemeni doctors said three people were killed and six others were injured in retaliatory airstrikes by the coalition northwest of the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sana’a. “Three civilians, including a child and a woman, were killed and six others wounded, in the city of Ajama,” doctors told AFP. The anti-Houthi military coalition has indicated it will hold a press conference on Saturday.

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Intensification of the fighting

In recent times, the fighting has intensified, with Saudi airstrikes on Sana’a, due to which the airport of the capital, under Saudi blockade since 2016, can no longer accommodate since Tuesday the planes of humanitarian organizations and the UN. Riyadh says it is responding to drone attacks fomented from this airport.

On Thursday, the coalition, which had targeted a Houthi military camp in Sanaa the day before, said it had destroyed a drone bomb targeting Abha airport in southern Saudi Arabia, without causing any casualties. On the same day, the US Navy announced the seizure of 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition from a fishing boat that it said left Iran for the Yemeni rebels.

377,000 dead since the start of the conflict

Tehran recognizes its political support for the rebels but denies providing them with weapons. Since the capture of Sana’a in 2014, the Houthis have captured most of northern Yemen, despite intervention by the Saudi-led military coalition. According to the UN, the war in Yemen has caused the death of 377,000 people, more than half of them due to the indirect consequences of the conflict, including lack of clean water, hunger and disease.

On Wednesday, the UN said it was “forced” to reduce food aid in Yemen for lack of necessary funds, at a time when hunger increases in this country ravaged by one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Some 80% of Yemen’s more than 30 million people depend on international aid.

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