Saudi-led coalition warplanes have bombed Yemeni rebel targets including in the capital Sanaa after the Houthis claimed responsibility for the drone attacks on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia earlier this week, said media reports.
Meanwhile reports claimed that at least 80 Houthi rebels were killed on Friday in clashes with government forces during the liberation of key areas in Yemen’s Dhale province.
They included their commander, Mohammad Al-Sanhani, said Turkish media agency Anadolu Agency.
The army also destroyed a large amount of ammunition and weapons belonging to the Houthis, stated the report citing the Yemeni army’s September Net website.
The clashes came as the army recaptured a city in Dhale from the Houthis, according to a military source.
“The army has succeeded in liberating the city of Qatabah from Houthi militants,” Yemen’s UAE-trained Security Belt forces said in a statement.
The new Saudi coalition bombardment came after the UN envoy, who has been spearheading efforts to end more than four years of conflict in the Arab world’s poorest country, warned it still faced the threat of plunging into all-out war, reported AFP.
The Saudi deputy defence minister warned that Tuesday’s attack by Yemeni rebels on a major pipeline in the kingdom was “tightening the noose” around peace efforts.
Two pumping stations along Aramco’s East-West oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia were attacked by explosive-laden drones in the early morning local time on Tuesday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih, who described the attack as one of “terrorism and sabotage.”
“These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” stated Al Falih.
This statement came out hours after Houthi-owned TV Almasirah reported that “7 Drones have targeted vital Saudi facilities.”
A coalition statement carried by Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said the sorties achieved its goals with full precision,” the coalition said. It had urged civilians to avoid those targets.
One resident reported a strike near a densely-populated district, where flames and clouds of smoke could be seen. A car was half-buried under rubble and twisted metal on a street lined with bystanders.
“There was an air strike near us, in the middle of an area packed with residents between Hael and Raqas (streets),” Abdulrazaq Mohammed told Reuters. “The explosion was so strong that stones were flying. This is the first time our house shakes so much.”
The rebels’ Al-Masirahn television said the caolition carried out at least 19 strikes, 11 of them in the capital.
A strike on one Sanaa neighbourhood killed at least six people and wounded 10, Dr Mokhtar Mohammed of the capital’s Republic Hospital said.
An AFP correspondent saw one residential building that had been reduced to rubble by an air strike. Residents were using their bare hands in a desperate search for survivors.
The raids began around 8 am (0500 GMT) on Thursday while many Yemenis were asleep awaiting the end at sunset of the daytime fast observed by Muslims during Ramadan, a witness told AFP
“There were many strikes,” he added.
Sanaa has been held by the Houthi movement since it ousted the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power there in late 2014.
The coalition has previously targeted suspected drone and missile storage sites in the city.
The Houthis said they were responsible for the attack on the Saudi pipeline which did not disrupt oil output or exports, claiming that it was a response to “crimes” committed by Riyadh during its bloody air war in Yemen.
According to the Houthi-owned Almasirah news outlet, Thursday’s air strikes on Sanaa killed six people, including four children, and wounded 52 others.
The Saudi Press Agency said that the Saudi-led coalition carried out “air operations on a number of legitimate military targets; which military intelligence confirmed are military bases and facilities used by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias for weapons and ammunition storage.”
“The Coalition stressed that the attacks by the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militias on vital facilities in the Kingdom are a violation of International Humanitarian Law and its customs, and amount to war crimes,” the Saudi agency reports.
On Thursday, Saudi Vice Minister of Defense, Khalid bin Salman, said on Twitter:
“The attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran’s regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region, and not to protect the people of Yemen as the Houthis falsely claim.”