Saudi Arabia and its allies in the so-called Arab coalition that is fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched a new military operation in the war-torn country. The decision came on the back of a Houthi missile and drone attack on Saudi oil depots on Friday.
On Saturday, the coalition conducted air strikes on Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, and major port city, Hodeidah. According to Saudi state media, Riyadh’s military operation aims to “protect global energy sources and ensure supply chains.” The campaign is apparently open-ended, with the coalition insisting it will continue until all of its goals have been achieved.
Riyadh and its allies warned the Houthis they would have to suffer the consequences of their “hostile behavior,” with state media outlets citing officials as having said the coalition would “directly deal with sources of threat.” The Saudi authorities have reportedly warned Yemeni civilians to stay well away from all oil facilities in Hodeidah.
According to the Yemeni Al Masirah TV channel, the Arab coalition’s warplanes have already struck the premises of an electricity corporation and several oil facilities in the port city, and local residents cited by Reuters spoke of an aerial bombardment in the surrounding area. There have also been reports of airstrikes in Sanaa.
The Saudi-led coalition began its latest military operation after the Houthis targeted oil giant Saudi Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station in the city of Jeddah on Friday. The missile attack, for which the Houthis have officially claimed responsibility, resulted in a massive blaze, but no casualties were reported. Additionally, the Yemeni armed group said it had attacked the Ras Tanura and Rabigh oil refineries using drones. The coalition claimed it had managed to shoot down two such drones, supposedly launched from Hodeidah, in the skies over Yemen.
The Houthis stated that the missile strikes had been intended to force Saudi Arabia to end what they describe as the siege of Yemen. Several other oil and gas facilities have also recently come under attack, with the Saudi Aramco plant in Jeddah being hit for the second time in two weeks. On the latest occasion, missiles rained down on the city as it welcomed its first Formula 1 racing event.
The latest escalation is a continuation of a bloody seven-year war in Yemen, which started as a conflict between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Shia Houthi rebels. However, in March 2015, a coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia, and heavily supported by the US and UK, intervened, conducting massive air raids against the Houthis, who the Saudis claim are being backed by Iran. Tehran has consistently denied any involvement. Riyadh’s professed endgame in the conflict is the reinstallation of the ousted Yemeni president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was elected in 2012 on a one-man ballot.
The Saudi intervention has had a devastating effect on Yemen, with some 400,000 people having been killed as of late 2021, according to UN estimates. International monitors claim children aged under five make up a large proportion of the casualties, with many having reportedly died of “indirect” causes, including hunger, disease and a lack of medicine amid a blockade on Yemen’s ports.
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