Copy of 2022-03-26T121830Z_1679173868_RC29AT9J2JL2_RTRMADP_3_YEMEN-SECURITY-1648376484010
Yemenis inspect damage after a Saudi-led airstrike in Saada. Image Credit: REUTERS

Cairo: An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, has unleashed airstrikes against Al Houthi targets in Yemen in retaliation for the Iran-aligned militia’s series of attacks on energy installations in the kingdom, Saudi media said.

The coalition based in Riyadh said it had initiated airstrikes against strongholds of Al Houthis in Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sana’a. The operation comes to “neutralise dangers of hostile attacks” by Al Houthis on civilian sites in Saudi Arabia, the alliance added.

In the past few days, Al Houthis have ramped up their cross-border attacks against energy installations in several areas of Saudi Arabia despite a call by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises the kingdom, to host inter-Yemeni talks later this month to resolve Yemen’s long-standing conflict.

The kingdom has said it does not bear responsibility for any shortage in oil supplies to the global markets as a result of the rebel attacks that have drawn wide condemnations

The Saudi-led alliance Saturday gave Al Houthis three hours to remove weapons from the ports of Hodeidah and Salif in western Yemen as well as from the Sana’a airport. The coalition also urged civilians in Yemen to keep distance from the rebel arms depots.

As part of the military offensive against the rebels’ targets, the coalition announced hitting four explosives-laden boats that were being readied at Salif port and thwarting an imminent attack against oil tankers. Three explosives experts were also killed in the coalition’s strikes.

Apparently due to the alliance’s stepped-up bombardment, Al Houthis Saturday announced a temporary halt to their air and sea attacks against Saudi Arabia. Head of the rebels’ self-styled Supreme Political Council Mahdi Al Mashat said the militia would also suspend military operations in Yemen including the flashpoint energy-rich Marib governorate.

“We initiate the eighth year [of Yemen war] with a sincere call for practical confidence-building steps,” Al Mashat added in a televised address. Yemen has been in the grip of a seven-year war.

Earlier this month, the six-nation GCC said it had invited Yemeni sides to talks under the grouping’s sponsorship in the Saudi capital Riyadh slated for March 29 and April 7.

The talks, according to the GCC, seek to unify inter-Yemeni ranks in support of legitimacy and state institutions in the war-ravaged country. The initiative received unqualified backing from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, while Al Houthis gave a conditional approval of the invitation, demanding such talks be hosted by any “neutral” country not linked to an ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against the rebels in Yemen.

The rebels have plunged Yemen into a devastating war after they unseated the internationally recognised government and seized some parts of the impoverished country including Sana’a in late 2014.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition started a campaign in Yemen against the rebels in response to a request from the legitimate government there.