SANAA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed missile and drone strikes that targeted Saudi Arabia on Saturday night and threatened more attacks.
Houthi fighters have intensified operations against Riyadh as air strikes by the Saudi-led military alliance pound rebel positions in the north of Yemen, in a bid to stop their offensive to seize the government’s last northern stronghold of Marib.
Years of war have already pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia — which has been backing the Yemeni government against the rebels since 2015 — said it had thwarted a Houthi missile that targeted Riyadh.
“The operation was carried out with a ballistic missile and 15 drones... targeting sensitive areas in the enemy’s capital of Riyadh,” said spokesman Yahya al Saree, according to the rebels’ Al Masirah TV channel.
“Our operations will continue and will expand as long as the aggression and siege on our country continues.” Fragments of the missile scattered over several Riyadh neighbourhoods, damaging at least one home but no casualties were reported, Saudi state-run Al Ekhbariya television said.
Correspondents in the Saudi capital reported hearing multiple loud explosions, with state television footage showing the night sky light up with a bright flash.
The coalition said it had intercepted six Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia, including the southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jizan.
Saree on Sunday claimed those attacks as well, warning residents in the region to “stay clear from all military airports and sites”.
The Houthis have escalated cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia even after the United States delisted the rebels as terrorists, reversing a decision by the administration of former president Donald Trump.
The designation had been widely criticised by aid organisations, who warned it would hamper their efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
US President Joe Biden halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen’s war, which he called a “catastrophe” that “has to end”.
But he has also reiterated US support for Saudi Arabia in defending its territory.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the Houthi strikes.
“These put innocent lives at risk and show that those responsible are not serious about peace, let alone protecting the Yemeni people,” he tweeted.
Bombardment in Hodeida
On Sunday, in the latest violence in Yemen, five civilians, including a child, were killed when their home was destroyed in a bombardment near the strategic rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.
The warring sides traded blame over who was responsible, with the government accusing Houthis of firing a mortar bomb and the rebels saying the explosion was caused by twin air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition.
Alongside the cross-border attacks, the Houthis are pressing ahead with an offensive to seize the government-held Marib region, where some of the country’s richest oil fields are found.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021