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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Saudi Arabia claims killing of top Houthi rebel

Saleh Al Sammad was killed on Thursday in the western province of Al Hodeida

<p>Saleh Al Sammad was the second highest-ranking Houthi leader after&nbsp;Abdul Malik Al Houthi. Yahya Arhab / EPA</p>
<p>Saleh Al Sammad was the second highest-ranking Houthi leader after&nbsp;Abdul Malik Al Houthi. Yahya Arhab / EPA</p>

Saudi Arabia said it was behind the air strike that killed the second-in-command of Yemen’s Houthi rebels last week.

“The RSAF [Royal Saudi Air Force] has targeted the second most senior Iranian-backed Houthi commander Saleh Al Sammad,” the kingdom’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman, tweeted late on Tuesday.

“He vowed couple of weeks ago to make 2018 the ‘year of ballistic missiles on KSA’. The response to him was a direct hit under the leadership of HRH Minister of Defence.”

Sammad was killed on Thursday in the western province of Al Hodeida, according to the rebels. Although he was not a military commander, he was integral to the logistics of rebel operations. He was also head of the Houthis’ supreme political council.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the defence minister, has been the driving force behind Riyadh’s intervention in the devastating Yemen war.

A Saudi-led coalition — which includes the UAE — intervened in March 2015 at the request of the legitimate government of Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

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Coalition and Yemeni forces have made territorial gains in recent months against the Houthi rebels in an armed push moving northward from the Bab Al Mandab strait towards Al Hodeidah on the Red Sea, where 80 per cent of Yemen's crucial food imports arrive.

In January, Houthis threatened to blockade the port city if coalition forces continued their push towards the Red Sea coast city.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine.

The Houthis have repeatedly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, which the United States and UN experts say were of Iranian origin — a claim Tehran denies.