Saudi-led forces have launched airstrikes north of the Yemen port city of Hodeidah, claiming they were targeting Houthi rebels’ capacity to mount remote-controlled assaults on shipping in the Red Sea.
The Houthi rebels, battling Saudi support for the UN-recognised Yemen government for the past five years, claimed the airstrikes on four sites were in violation of the ceasefire agreement signed in December 2018 in Stockholm.
A Houthi military spokesman described the assault as a serious escalation and a reprisal for the Houthi-claimed assault on Saudi oil installations last weekend.
The extremists on Tuesday attacked government troops in several parts of the Red Sea coast city, using heavy artillery and mortars, a media center for the pro-government Giants Force, said in a statement.
The Saudi attacks were seen by the Houthis as an attempted show of strength in response to the last Saturday’s devastating assault on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities, a strike that exposed the vulnerability of the Saudi oilfields to terrorism.
For more than four years, Yemen has been ravaged by a war between the Houthi rebels and the internationally-recognized government backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis.
With logistical support from the United States, the Saudi-UAE-led coalition has carried out more than 18,000 raids on Houthi-held areas in an attempt to reverse their gains.
Human rights groups have criticized the alliance for targeting civilians at hospitals, schools, and markets, while also condemning Western countries for providing it with arms.
The coalition said it had destroyed four sites used in assembling remote-controlled boats and sea mines to help protect the freedom of maritime navigation.
The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Yemen Iran-aligned Houthi group after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognized government in Sanaa in late 2014.
The Hodeidah ceasefire and troop redeployment agreement was reached last year at peace talks in Sweden, as a trust-building measure to pave the way for talks to end the war, but stalled for months before the Houthi withdrawal from three Red Sea ports.
The coalition had called on civilians to stay away from the targeted sites and asserted that the military operation was conducted in a way that follows international humanitarian law and that it took the necessary precautionary measures.
The coalition said it had intercepted and destroyed an explosives-laden boat launched from Yemen by the Houthi group.
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