A Saudi-led military alliance fighting Iran-allied rebels in Yemen said on Friday it had mounted airstrikes against the Houthis, days after the rebel group claimed attacks on major Saudi oil facilities.
The Saudi news agency, SPA, quoted a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Turki al-Malaki, as saying that the alliance had carried out an operation against “hostile” Houthi targets north of the coastal province of Hodeida in western Yemen.
Al-Maliki accused the rebels of using Hodeida for launching ballistic missiles, drones, remote-controlled explosive boats, and deploying naval mines.
He added that the alliance had “legitimate right to take and implement the appropriate deterrence measures with these legal military targets.”
Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam, in a press statement, called the strikes a “dangerous escalation” that undermined a UN-brokered ceasefire agreement reached in Sweden last December.
“The alliance has to bear consequences of this escalation,” he added.
Local residents told dpa that the alliance had mounted a series of airstrikes against Houthi positions north of Hodeida. No casualties were reported.
Hodeida is of strategic importance because of its main port, which is the entry point for some 80 per cent of Yemen’s imports and aid.
In recent months, the Houthis have launched a string of drone and missile attacks into Saudi territory, which the rebels said were to defend themselves against the coalition’s strikes.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have said that Iran was behind the weekend attacks on the Saudi oil sites that disrupted the kingdom’s oil production. Tehran has denied the charge.
The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015, when it was formed to counter advances by the rebels towards the Yemeni government’s temporary seat in Aden.
The rebels took over the capital Sana’a and other areas in late 2014.
The power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis has left Yemen, already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, with a famine and massive damage to infrastructure.