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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Coalition strikes at rebel-held air base in Yemeni capital

Targets included launch and storage facilities for ballistic missiles, coalition spokesman says

The news of the US approach comes as the UN peace talks were pushed back. Reuters
The news of the US approach comes as the UN peace talks were pushed back. Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen's government said on Friday it had attacked an air base in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, while rebels and pro-government forces clashed in the port city of Hodeidah to the west.

"This operation includes targeting of ballistic-missile launch and storage locations... bomb-making and assembly workshops and their support locations in Al Dailami air base in Sanaa," coalition spokesman Turki Al Malki said.

He added that the adjoining Sanaa international airport was still open to air traffic from the United Nations and other relief agencies.

Calling the attacked structures "legitimate military targets", Col Al Malki said he would provide evidence of violations by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels later on Friday.

Al Masirah TV, which is controlled by the Houthis, said more than 30 air strikes targeted the base and surrounding areas.

The latest fighting comes a day after the Yemeni government said it welcomed efforts to restore peace following calls by key US officials and the UN's envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths for warring parties to come to the table "within a month".

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have called for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes by the coalition.

Washington, a close Saudi ally, supports coalition forces by refuelling their jets and selling them weapons.

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Meanwhile, fighting broke out early on Friday in a southern district of Hodeidah, residents and military sources said.

Saber Abdulwahed, a journalist covering the battle, told The National that fierce battles between the forces of Al Amalikah, backed by the UAE armed forces, and the Houthis have been going on for hours in the south and east of the city. About 80 Houthi fighters had been killed in the confrontations so far, Mr Abdulwahed said.

Residents in the southern of Hodeidah told The National that clashes have been ongoing since the early morning between the Houthi militia and Al Amaliakh brigades along the road leading to the university and the airport ring road.

Fighting has also been reported in neighbourhoods of Al Rabsa and near to Al Thawra hospital, in the east of the city, where UAE F-16 jet fighters launched more than 20 airstrikes.

Residents said that the Houthis have been burning tires in attempt to disrupt visibility for the aircraft and have blocked roads in the north of the city with large containers.

The coalition had massed thousands of troops near the city on Wednesday, in a move to pressure the Houthis to return to UN-sponsored peace talks.

The sources in Hodeidah said fighting was heard in areas near the airport and the university, and Apache helicopters were spotted in the sky.

Forces loyal to the government have said coalition strikes were intensified on Thursday night on Houthi bases near the eastern entrance to the port city, which is a gateway to the capital, and in its southern part.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the UAE, entered the war in 2015 to suport Yemen's internationally recognised President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi after the Houthis took over Sanaa.

Nearly 10,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far, according to the World Health Organisation.

Other rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.