RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday launched a “large-scale” assault on Yemen after missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels killed two people in the kingdom, the first such deaths in three years.

The Houthis warned Yemen’s oil-rich northern neighbour of a “painful” response if the coalition does not stop its “aggression” against the conflict-riven country.

Yemen has been wracked by civil war since 2014, pitting the internationally recognised government supported by the Saudi-led military coalition against the Houthis who control much of the north.

Tens of thousands of people have since been killed, in what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The latest violence came overnight when two people — one Saudi and the other Yemeni — were killed in the projectile attack on Jazan, said Saudi Arabia’s civil defence.

Pakistan assails air strike on target in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region

“A military projectile fell on a commercial store on the main street, resulting in two deaths,” it said, adding six Saudis and a Bangladeshi national were wounded.

Images from the official Saudi Press Agency purportedly of the aftermath of the attack showed a large crater in the ground and destroyed vehicles.

The Saudi-led coalition said shortly afterwards that it was “preparing for a large-scale military operation”.

It later launched an air strike in which “three civilians including a child and a woman were killed, and six others were wounded”, Yemeni medics said. The coalition will hold a news conference on Sunday to address the latest developments, the Saudi authorities said.

Houthi spokesman Yahya Saree warned Saudi Arabia of “painful operations as long as it continues its aggression and crimes”.

In a statement on the Houthis’ Telegram channel, he said the rebels had launched three ballistic missiles on Jazan, a southern region of the kingdom bordering Yemen.

The insurgents often launch missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia, targeting its airports and oil infrastructure.

The latest was the first in more than three years that has resulted in fatalities in the kingdom, which recorded its first death from a Houthi missile attack when a missile struck Riyadh in 2018.

It also comes as fighting between the two sides intensifies, with the coalition ramping air strikes on Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States have long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with sophisticated weapons, a charge the Islamic republic denies.

The US Navy said this week that it seized 1,400 AK-47 rifles and ammunition from a fishing boat it claimed was smuggling weapons from Iran to the Houthis, who are from Yemen’s Zaidi Shia minority.

“The stateless vessel was assessed to have originated in Iran and transited international waters along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Houthis in Yemen,” it said.

On Thursday — a day after the coalition targeted a Houthi military camp in Sanaa — the military alliance said it shot down a bomb-laden drone near Abha airport in the south of the kingdom, causing debris to fall nearby but leaving no casualties.

The UN estimates Yemen’s war will have claimed 377,000 lives by the end of the year through both direct and indirect impacts.

More than 80 per cent of Yemen’s population of about 30 million requires humanitarian assistance in what the UN says is world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Missile attack condemned Pakistan criticised on Saturday the ballistic missiles attack on a target in Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, the spokesperson for the Foreign Office in Islamabad said: “Pakistan strongly condemns the launch of hostile projectiles by Houthis towards Samtah governorate in Jazan region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that resulted in casualties, injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure.

“Such attacks not only violate international law but also threaten peace and security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the region. Pakistan calls for immediate cessation of these attacks.”

Pakistan reaffirms its full support to and solidarity with the kingdom against any threats to its security and territorial integrity, added the statement.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2021

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