Arab coalition strikes Houthi military bases in Sanaa

The operation was in response to rebel drone attacks on Saudi Arabia

epa08331906 A Yemeni standing on the top of a house looks at smoke billowing above a neighborhood following Saudi-led airstrikes targeting a Houthi-held position, a day after the Houthis fired ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh, in Sanaa, Yemen, 30 March 2020. According to reports, the Saudi-led coalition's warplanes waged a series of airstrikes on Houthi-held positions in the capital Sanaa after Houthi rebels fired ballistic missiles a day earlier at Riyadh that was intercepted near the Saudi Arabian capital.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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The Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting in Yemen launched on Monday several strikes targeting military bases belonging to Houthi rebels in Sanaa.

The attacks came in response to Houthi missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it had intercepted two ballistic missiles targeting Riyadh and Jizan, part of a drone and missile attack conducted by the Iran-backed rebels.

The coalition statement followed reports of three explosions in the capital.

“The operation was aimed at destroying legitimate military targeting including Houthi ballistic batteries which threaten civilian lives,” the coalition said in a statement.

An airbase close to Sanaa airport was hit as well as loud explosions were heard across the capital.

The coalition vowed to take “strict measures against intentional rebel violations by targeting innocent civilians.”

Precautionary measures were taken to prevent any collateral damage, it said.

Residents in Sanaa told The National there were more than a dozen coalition airstrikes on the capital.

“We heard about eight strikes at around one this afternoon of huge explosions in Sanaa airport, others targeted Al Hafa camp located in the Noqoum mountains in the south,” one resident said.

Al Hafa camp is known to be one of the rebel’s most strategic military sites.

Strikes also targeted rebel military sites in Faj Atan mountain and Al Nahdein area in southern Sanaa, the resident said.

“We have not heard such explosions in months, they were huge, it seems that some strikes targeted a weapon depot as it was followed by a chain of explosions,” a resident in southern Sanaa said.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted the government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The group still controls most major urban centres despite years of war.

Coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki said the rebels are using the outbreak of coronavirus in the region to target innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia.

“The kingdom is strong with its leadership, people, and armed forces and will not allow the Houthis to reach their targets,” Mr Al Maliki said during a press conference on Sunday.

By conducting these strikes the rebels show they want “to take no part in Yemen’s political or social developments,” he said.

Under international humanitarian law, Saudi Arabia has the right to protect its citizens, he said.

The developments follows the welcoming of a UN ceasefire agreed by the warring parties on Thursday.

It was pushed through to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, reiterated the call for an immediate cessation of hostilities to build momentum for a nationwide ceasefire.

"Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a Covid-19 outbreak," Mr Griffiths said in a statement on Sunday, referring to the respiratory illness that coronavirus can cause.

Yemen has not officially recorded any cases of the virus.