Coalition raids hit Yemen rebels after missile targets Riyadh


Sanaa (AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition targeted rebel positions near Yemen's capital with air strikes Wednesday, witnesses said, a day after Riyadh said it intercepted a missile fired by the Huthi insurgents.

Witnesses told AFP the air raids targeted a rebel camp south of Sanaa and a second camp to the west.

A security source close to the rebels said the raids were carried out by the Saudi-led alliance.

Security and medical sources in Sanaa have not yet confirmed casualties.

But the rebel-run Saba press agency said 38 people, including women and children, had been killed or wounded in a series of raids targeting different parts of Yemen.

The raids followed a missile attack by the Huthi rebels on Tuesday against the Saudi capital.

Saudi Arabia said it "intercepted and destroyed" the missile.

The Huthis said that "the target of the ballistic missile was a large gathering of Saudi regime leaders in the Yamamah Palace," where King Salman -- hours later -- unveiled the country's 2018 budget.

Yemen is in the midst of a bloody war between the Huthis and pro-government forces, who were driven from Sanaa in September 2014.

Rebel chief Abdelmalik al-Huthi said Tuesday's attack was timed to coincide with the 1,000th day of the Saudi-led intervention.

It was the second ballistic missile to target the heart of Riyadh in less than two months.

The first failed attempt came on November 4 and triggered a sharp Saudi response -- the full closure of Yemen's ports and borders that were already under an extensive blockade.

At the time, the UN aid chief warned the siege -- namely on the key rebel-held port of Hodeida -- could trigger the worst famine the world has seen in decades.

The blockade was partially lifted three weeks later amid massive international pressure.

The coalition issued a statement Wednesday saying it would not resort to closing Hodeida port.

"The coalition leadership announces the port of Hodeida will remain open for humanitarian and relief supplies and the entry of commercial vessels, including fuel and food vessels, for a period of 30 days," the statement, published on the state-run SPA news agency said.

Saudi Arabia and its ally the United States have accused Iran of being behind the missile attacks on Riyadh.

Tehran denied the charge on Wednesday, saying it has "no arms link with Yemen".

More than 8,750 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the rebels, triggering what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.