Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 February 2020

Coalition jets strike Houthi rebel drone sites in Sanaa

Attacks on manufacture and launch facilities are the third this year

Fighters travel in an armed pickup truck in Sanaa, Yemen's rebel-held capital. AFP
Fighters travel in an armed pickup truck in Sanaa, Yemen's rebel-held capital. AFP

Arab Coalition air strikes on Yemen's rebel-held capital on Friday were targeted at Houthi facilities for making and launching drones, the military alliance supporting the government said.

Colonel Turki Al Malki said the strikes were launched at 2am on Friday "to destroy a legitimate military target, a location used by the Houthi militia to store and prepare the launch of UAVs for terrorist attacks in the capital Sanaa".

“This targeting operation is an extension to the previous two military operations on January 19 and 31, that were conducted by the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition to target and destroy an Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia’s integrated network for UAV capabilities and its logistical facilities, in addition to locations of foreign experts,” Col Al Malki said.

The coalition is determined to prevent the Houthis and other terror organisations from obtaining and using such capabilities and to protect civilians and vital areas from the threat of drone attacks, the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Precautions were taken to protect civilians and avoid collateral damage from the strikes, he said.

The coalition strikes follow a rebel drone attack at Yemen's largest military base on January 10 that killed the national intelligence chief and the military's deputy chief of staff. Five soldiers were also killed in the attack at Al Anad airbase in Lahj province

The coalition and Yemen government say Iran is providing the Houthis with military hardware and know-how in violation of UN resolutions, including missiles, drones and mines. Tehran and the rebels deny this but coalition, US and UN investigators have confirmed that the components and design of these weapons are of Iranian origin.

There is mounting international pressure for a political solution to the war in Yemen, which began when the Houthis seized Sanaa in September 2014. Saudi Arabia Arabia and the UAE have played leading roles in the fight against the rebels since the coalition entered the war in March 2015 at the government's request.

Hopes of ending the conflict now hinge on a UN-brokered ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah. However, the coalition and government have recorded hundreds of rebel violations since it went into effect on December 18 and a rebel withdrawal from Hodeidah's ports – a key part of the deal, intended to secure the arrival of humanitarian aid – has yet to take place.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Friday that the Houthis were trying to derail the peace process by delaying implementation of the ceasefire and other measures agreed during talks with the government in Sweden.

It is becoming clear after the Stockhom Agreement that the rebels "are the real impediment to peace in Yemen", Dr Gargash said on Twitter, referring to the UN's accusation that the Houthis were refusing to let aid agencies reach a food storage site in Hodeidah.

The Red Sea Mills silos are believed to contain enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month but the Houthis are refusing to allow UN aid agencies to cross front lines to reach the site, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said on Thursday.

Dr Gargash said the Houthis' intentions "will be clearer with their every move to derail the political process".

The rebels committed to a series of confidence-building measures to pave the way for a full-scale peace effort during the UN-brokered talks in December. These include the ceasefire in Hodeidah and withdrawal of all forces from the city; a prisoner exchange; and the opening of humanitarian corridors to all areas of the country.

"The Stockholm Agreement offers us a unique opportunity to end the war in Yemen. Nonetheless the Houthis are working hard to undermine this opportunity by their obstinate disregard to their commitments. We have to save the prospects for peace," Dr Gargash said.

Three days of government-rebel talks overseen by the head of the UN monitoring mission in Hodeidah ended on Thursday with only an agreement "in principle" for implementing the ceasefire and more discussions planned in the coming week.

Dr Gargash said international pressure was essential to make the rebels honour the Hodeidah ceasefire and other commitments.

"Vital that the international community support the Stockholm Agreement at this juncture," he said. "The militia is dragging its feet and threatening the overall prospects for peace."

Updated: February 9, 2019 11:05 PM



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