Arab Coalition announces new offensive against Yemen’s Houthis

'Civilians are a red line' coalition spokesman says after spike in Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent weeks

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Attacks on civilians in Saudi Arabia are a red line, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Coalition told Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Thursday after an increase in attacks against the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has been the target of dozens of Houthi attacks in recent weeks, with the rebels using ballistic missiles or drones to target Saudi Arabia's most populous towns and cities.

"Targeting civilian facilities is a red line. We won't allow this to happen," Col Al Maliki said. 
The Saudi official said the rebels were not capable of creating their own ballistic missiles and drones and said Iran was behind the attacks on the kingdom.

"Iran is know for smuggling weapons to the rebels. It has spread destruction and threatened the security of the region and has intentionally targeted civilians," Col Al Maliki said.

He accused Tehran of supporting an organised crime network that smuggled 16 shipments of arms to the rebels.

In recent weeks, the coalition intercepted drones and missiles fired by the terrorist militias and "destroyed 118 ballistic missiles that targeted Saudi Arabia", he said.

The Saudi-led Coalition launched a new military operation against Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Wednesday, days after the first reports of missiles fired at Riyadh in several weeks.

The new push comes after the coalition announced a unilateral ceasefire in early April after calls from the UN to halve all global conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Houthis ignored the move and carried on fighting but the regular rocket fire towards Saudi targets appeared to stop.

"The coalition started a military operation against legitimate targets belonging to the Houthi terrorist militia," the state-run Saudi Press Agency announced on Twitter.

"The operation aims to neutralise and destroy the rebels' military capabilities in response to the threats it posed."

After several weeks, Saudi Arabia said it intercepted missiles and drones launched by the Iran-backed rebels at targets in the capital of Riyadh last week.

This was the first such reported attack on targets within the kingdom by the Houthis since the Coalition ceasefire.

Inside Yemen, the Houthis have used the pandemic as a recruiting tool, trying to take advantage of pupils from closed schools and those unable to work because of the virus.

On Wednesday night, the Security Council finally backed the March 23 call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global truce to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The council adopted a resolution after months of talks for a compromise between the US and China over the language of the resolution.

Drafted by France and Tunisia, the resolution calls for "all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Yemen was on the list of conflicts as UN officials have warned as many as 16 million people in the country may get the virus and the already shattered health system will be unable to cope.

The coalition intervened in Yemen at the request of the government after the Houthis took control of the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

This week, the coalition announced it had intercepted a shipment of Iranian weapons, destined for the Houthi rebels, off the Yemen coast.

Saudi representatives of the coalition revealed details of the shipment in a conference in which they displayed footage and images of the operation.

They said the vessel was intercepted 12 days ago.

The find shows Iran is contravening a UN resolution that prohibits arms transfers to the Houthi rebels.

This week calls intensified for the UN to renew a 13-year arms embargo, due to expire in October, on Iran.