Coalition air strikes hit Houthi sites after Jeddah attack

Raids follow major escalation in attacks on Saudi Arabia on Friday, including one on an oil depot

Firefighters extinguish flames after Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Sanaa on March 26, 2022. AP

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen carried out air strikes on the capital and Red Sea port city of Hodeidah in response to multiple attacks on Saudi Arabia on Friday, including one that caused a fire at an Aramco fuel depot in Jeddah.

Brig Gen Turki Al Malki, spokesman for the coalition, said the overnight strikes’ target was the “sources of threat” to the kingdom, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

He said the coalition had intercepted and destroyed two explosives-laden drones early on Saturday that were launched from Houthi-held civilian oil facilities in Hodeidah.

He urged civilians to stay away from oil facilities in the city.

Footage circulated online showed flames and plumes of smoke over Sanaa and Hodeidah. Associated Press journalists in the Yemeni capital reported loud explosions that rattled residential buildings.

According to rebel-run Al Masirah TV, the targets included Ras Issa Port and electricity and fuel installations in Hodeidah, as well as military sites in Sanaa.

The rebels declared a three-day truce later on Saturday, including a suspension of attacks on Saudi Arabia and military operations inside Yemen. There was no immediate response from the coalition.

Following Friday’s attacks, the coalition said it would launch a military operation to counter the Houthi threat.

The attacks on Saudi Arabia were strongly condemned in the region and worldwide.

The UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the rebels' repeated attacks on civilian and economic targets "reflected the Houthis terrorist militias' blatant defiance of the international community and their disregard of the efforts made to end the Yemeni crisis".

"This disregard of all international laws and norms requires a deterrent response to all that threatens the security, safety and lives of civilians," the ministry said in a statement on the state Wam news agency.

Fellow Gulf Co-operation Council members Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as Egypt, Morocco and Algeria were among other countries in the region to voice condemnation of the attacks.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthi aggression came at a time when all sides "should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving relief to the Yemeni people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan".

He said Washington would continue to work with Riyadh to strengthen its defences while working for a durable resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

The European Union said the attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure were "unacceptable" and called on the Houthis to stop.

The latest escalation is likely to complicate efforts by UN special envoy Hans Grundberg to reach a humanitarian truce during Ramadan, which is expected to begin early in April.

The Gulf Co-operation Council plans to host the warring sides for talks late this month.

But the Houthis have rejected Riyadh – the Saudi capital, in which the GCC is based – as a venue for talks, which are expected to include an array of Yemeni factions.

Yemen’s war erupted in late 2014 after the Houthis seized Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in March the following year at the request of the internationally recognised government, and the conflict has created what the UN has described as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

The Houthi attack on Jeddah came ahead of a Formula One race in the city on Sunday. Organisers said the race would go ahead after a meeting with drivers, teams and local authorities.

Hundreds of Jeddah-bound passengers were stranded at Cairo International Airport in Egypt after their flights were cancelled, according to airport officials.

The kingdom’s flagship carrier, Saudia, announced the cancellation of two flights on its website. A third canceled flight was operated by the low-cost Saudi airline flynas.

Some passengers found seats on other Saudi Arabia-bound flights and others were booked into hotels close to Cairo airport, Egyptian officials said.

Updated: March 27, 2022, 6:34 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS