Saudi-led coalition says it destroyed Yemen rebel missile launch sites

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UN says air raids have struck rebel-held Hodeida for three days, damaging water plant and placing civilians at 'extreme risk'

Ballistic missile launched by Houthi rebels from undisclosed location in Yemen (AFP/file photo)
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Monday 30 July 2018 11:43 UTC
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A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had destroyed sites used by Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen to launch missiles at the kingdom.

The coalition announced in a statement the "destruction over the past 24 hours of ballistic missile sites run by the Houthi militias in Saada," a northern Yemeni province bordering Saudi Arabia and controlled by the Houthis.

Riyadh and its allies are fighting alongside Yemen's government against the Iran-backed Houthis in a war that has killed thousands and pushed impoverished Yemen to the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia's government-run Al Ekhbariya TV aired a 49-second clip showing black and white ariel footage of what it said was a coalition strike on Saada. The footage could not be independently confirmed. 

Saudi Arabia has come under increasingly frequent missile attacks launched by the Houthis from northern Yemen this year. 

Saudi Arabia, the biggest crude exporter in the world, last week announced it had temporarily suspended oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandab Strait after a Houthi missile attack on an Aramco vessel. 

The strait connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea and is a crucial passage for oil and trade. 

"The coalition will not allow the Houthi militias to build military capabilities that threaten regional waters," the coalition said.

The Saudi-led alliance intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back the country's internationally recognised government after the Houthi rebels forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa. 

Almost 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict since the 2015 intervention, 2,200 of them children.

Saudi Arabia accuses its regional arch-nemesis Iran of smuggling arms to the Houthis through Yemen's ports, namely the Red Sea port of Hodeida. 

The Hodeida port was blockaded by the Saudi-led alliance earlier this year to retaliate against the rebels' missile strikes. 

The blockade has since been partially lifted, but access to the impoverished country remains limited. Hodeida is the entry point for 70 percent of imports in a country where eight million people face imminent famine.

On 13 June, Yemeni forces launched a major offensive to retake Hodeida.

The United Nations on Sunday said air raids had struck the province of Hodeida for three days, damaging a water plant and placing civilians at "extreme risk".

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"On 26, 27 and 28 July, air strikes occurred near a reproductive health centre and public laboratory in Hodeida and hit and damaged a sanitation facility in Zabid and a water station, which supplies the majority of the water to Hodeida City," the office of the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen said in a statement.  

"These air strikes are putting innocent civilians at extreme risk," the statement said. 

The UN office said that "damage to sanitation, water and health facilities jeopardises everything we are trying to do" and warned "we could be one air strike away from an unstoppable epidemic".

The strikes comes less than one month after the United Arab Emirates, part of a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government, said it had suspended an offensive to take the port city to give UN mediation efforts a chance.  

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Yemeni military sources contacted by AFP confirmed that air raids had resumed after the Saudi oil tanker was attacked on Wednesday.