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Saudi strikes Yemen after Jiddah attack

A Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen unleashed a barrage of air strikes on the capital and a strategic Red Sea city, officials say. At least eight people have been killed.

The overnight air strikes on Sanaa and Hodeida — both held by the Houthis — came a day after the rebels attacked an oil depot in the Saudi city of Jiddah, their highest-profile assault yet on the kingdom.

Brigadier General Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the strikes targeted “sources of threat” to Saudi Arabia, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency or SPA.

He said the coalition intercepted and destroyed two explosives-laden drones early Saturday. He said the drones were launched from Houthi-held civilian oil facilities in Hodeida, urging civilians to stay away from oil facilities in the city.

Footage circulated online showed flames and plumes of smoke over Sanaa and Hodeida. Associated Press journalists in the Yemeni capital heard loud explosions that rattled residential buildings there.

The Houthis said the coalition air strikes hit a power plant, a fuel supply station and the state-run social insurance office in the capital.

A Houthi media office claimed an air strike hit houses for guards of the social insurance office in Sanaa’s Haddah neighbourhood, killing at least eight people and wounding four others, including women and children.

The office shared images it said for the aftermath of the air strike. It showed wreckage in the courtyard of a social insurance office with the shattered windows of a nearby multiple-story building.

Hamoud Abbad, a local official with the Houthis in Sanaa, said the facility is located close to a building used by the UN agencies in the capital. He claimed that UN vehicles were seen leaving the area prior the the air strikes.

In Hodeida, the Houthi media office said the coalition hit oil facilities in violation of a 2018 cease-fire deal that ended months of fighting in Hodeida, which handles about 70 per cent of Yemen’s commercial and humanitarian imports. The strikes also hit the nearby Port Salif, also on the Red Sea.

Al-Malki, the coalition spokesperson, said it targeted drones being prepared in Hodeida to be launched on the Kingdom. He accused the Houthis of using civilian infrastructure, such as Hodeida’s ports and the Sanaa airport, to launch attacks on Saudi oil facilities, according to SPA.

A UN mission overseeing the Hodeida deal voiced concern about the air strikes and urged warring sides to “maintain the civilian nature of the ports and avoid damage to civilian infrastructure.”

The escalation, which comes on the seventh anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen’s war, is likely to complicate efforts by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to reach a humanitarian truce during the holy month of Ramadan, in early April.

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