SANAA: The Saudi-led military coalition launched airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Monday, the coalition and Yemeni security officials said, just two days after a foiled rebel drone-and-missile attack targeting the Saudi capital.

A number of sensitive sites including the presidential palace compound, a military school and an air base close to Sanaa airport were hit, and loud explosions were heard across the city, residents said.

Houthi-run Al Masirah news said 70 horses were killed and 30 wounded in strikes on the military school.

Bombings in Sanaa city have been rare since September when Saudi Arabia launched indirect talks with the Houthi movement, which controls Sanaa and most of northern Yemen.

The warring parties had also welcomed a UN call for an immediate truce to help fight the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday.

UN official calls for truce

But fierce battles have resumed in Al Jawf and Marib provinces since last month as the Saudi-led coalition resumed air strikes against several towns and villages.

The coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels there since March 2015.

Coalition officials said in a brief statement that they had started an operation to destroy legitimate military targets held by the rebels. It did not elaborate further.

The officials said more than 12 air strikes hit rebel-held Sanaa on Monday, including six strikes on a military academy north of the capital and four on a military airbase that is within the Sanaa International Airport.

Further air strikes were reported in the northwestern Amran province.

Saudi Arabia’s Air Defence Forces on Saturday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile over the capital of Riyadh around midnight, according to state media.

Another missile was also intercepted and destroyed over the southern Saudi city of Jizan, which borders Yemen.

The Houthis frequently launch missiles across Yemen’s border into Saudi Arabia, but the missiles rarely reach the capital.

Elsewhere in Yemen, military officials and tribal leaders said fierce clashes between Yemeni government forces and the rebels in the mountainous northern province of Jawf and neighbouring Marib killed more than 45 fighters from both sides in the past two days.

The officials said the Houthis attempted to seize control of the Sirwah district in Marib, but government forces, aided by air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition, repelled the Houthi attack.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media, and the residents and tribal leaders for fear of reprisal.

Concerns

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Sunday voiced concerns about the escalation of fighting in Marib and rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia.

“I am gravely dismayed and disappointed by these actions at a time when the Yemeni public’s demands for peace are unanimous and louder than ever before,” he said.

He called for the focus to be on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The recent escalation of fighting in the Arab World’s poorest country displaced more than 40,000 people since January, adding to the roughly 3.6 million who have fled their homes since the war began five years ago.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020