The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen launched on Saturday what it described as "a large-scale military operation" against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a day after two people were killed in a cross-border attack in the kingdom's south.
According to Saudi network Al-Ekhbariya, the Saudi forces struck a Houthi weapons warehouse in the rebel-controlled capital Sanaa. Earlier on Saturday, the coalition reported some 40 strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen's north, claiming 223 rebel fighters were killed.
The Saudi-led coalition is expected to deliver a statement to the press on Sunday, where according to Al Arabiya and other media outlets it will present information allegedly revealing the involvement of Lebanese Hezbollah – which is also backed by the Iranian regime – in the fighting in Yemen, and evidence to show the Houthis are using the Sanaa airport to launch drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia.
The airport has been mostly inactive since the Saudis intervened in the conflict in 2015, imposing an air and sea blockade of Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen.
Saudi media reported the coalition has warned of further attacks on Houthi facilities, urging Yemeni citizens to avoid them.
A projectile launched by the Houthis on Friday killed a Saudi citizen and a Yemeni resident in the southwestern Saudi province of Jizan, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Six of the wounded are Saudis and one is a Bangladeshi national, Saudi media said.
Shrapnel also smashed into nearby cars and shops.
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The fatal cross-border attack, widely condemned by the United States, the United Kingdom, several Gulf states and other countries, marks an escalation in Yemen's long-running civil war. Saudi-led military coalition airstrikes struck Sanaa earlier on Friday, hitting a military camp near the city center, Saudi media reported. Houthi media said the strikes had hit a populated neighborhood, damaging homes.
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh condemned the "horrific cross-border attack," adding that such "attacks are perpetuating the conflict, prolonging the suffering of the Yemeni people, and endangering Saudi people alongside more than 70,000 U.S. citizens" in the country.
On Saturday, Yemeni Brig. Gen. Yehia Sarie, a Houthi spokesman, said the rebels fired three ballistic missiles on Jizan, targeting what he described as “vital and sensitive” sites there. He provided no further details.
Yemen's war erupted in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthis seized Sanaa and much of the country's north. Months later, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition intervened to oust the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government. The war has settled into a stalemate and spawned the world's worst humanitarian disaster.
Throughout the conflict, the Houthis have increasingly staged drone attacks and fired missiles across the border at airports, oil facilities and military installations within the kingdom.
Those assaults have rarely caused substantial damage, but over the years have wounded dozens and rattled global oil markets. Within Yemen, the Saudi-led bombing campaign has drawn international criticism for hitting non-military targets such as hospitals and wedding parties in the Arab world’s most impoverished nation.
Yemen's civil war has killed some 130,000 people, including thousands of civilians.
Earlier this week the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, reported that attacks by the Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia have more than doubled this year from last year. Based on an analysis of thousands of Houthi attacks between 2016 and 2021, it said Houthi attacks on the kingdom averaged 78 a month this year, compared to 38 a month last year.
The cross-border assaults provide a broader view of the regional proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh. Although the regional powerhouses recently have engaged in Bagdad-brokered talks to cool down tensions, a political settlement in Yemen remains elusive.