Saudi Arabia-led coalition strikes in Yemen’s capital after assaults on Aden accused of Houthis

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Security guards and people react during an attack on Aden Airport shortly after an aircraft with a newly formed cabinet for government-held parts of Yemen landed in Aden

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By Mohammed Mukhasaf

ADEN (Reuters) -Audi-led coalition fighter jets struck targets in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Thursday in retaliation for attacks in the southern port city of Aden the day before officials from a Riyadh-backed government arrived.

The coalition accused the Houthi Movement, which it has been fighting for six years, of orchestrating the attack on Aden’s airport and a second attack on the presidential palace.

The coalition air strikes on Thursday struck Sanaa Airport and several other locations in and around the city, residents said. Loud explosions could be heard and warplanes flew overhead for several hours, they said.

Houthi-operated Masirah TV said the planes had hit at least 15 locations in different districts of the capital. There were no immediate reports of victims.

Coalition air strikes killed thousands, including many civilians, over the course of the war.

However, they have been less common in recent years as the conflict has stalled. The Iranian-leaning Houthis control most of the population centers, and the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – supported by Riyadh and Western powers – is based in Aden.

The main war was dwarfed by a power struggle between Hadi’s government and southern separatists in Aden. Saudi Arabia has tried to unite them to focus on fighting the Houthis.

STEEL BOLTS

At least 22 people were killed and dozens more injured in the attack on Aden Airport on Wednesday, just as members of Hadi’s new cabinet arrived from Saudi Arabia. A second attack was made on the Maasheq Palace, where they had been brought to safety.

A coalition statement said the Alliance shot down a Houthi drone laden with explosives that was aiming at the palace.

“The desperate terrorist attack on the Maasheq Palace confirms the responsibility of the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia for the attack on Aden International Airport,” the statement said.

There was no immediate response from the Houthis, who had previously denied responsibility for the airport attack.

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said 19 people had been treated for wounds in their hospital in Aden.

“The missile hit the terminal gate and we were only a few meters away … We pulled out screaming people, then I realized that I was wounded myself,” said Nasser Mubarak, one of the survivors.

Mubarak was lying on a bed in MSF hospital, others were mostly injured by splinters. Medical staff showed steel bolts that had been removed from some victims.

Aden was entangled in violence over the rift between the separatists and Hadi’s government, which was based there after it was evicted from Sanaa by the Houthis in 2014.

The Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks independence for South Yemen, declared self-government in Aden in April, sparked clashes with Hadi’s armed forces and hampered efforts by the United Nations to forge a permanent ceasefire in the overall conflict.

The new cabinet unites the STC with Hadi to achieve the Saudi goal of ending the feud. Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik said all cabinet members were “okay” and would stay in Aden despite the attack.

However, government officials were among the victims of the attack on Aden Airport.

Three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were also killed, the organization said.

Sara al-Zawqari, ICRC spokeswoman for the Middle East, said a dozen employees were driving from Sanaa to Djibouti and briefly circumnavigating Aden Airport when the attack took place.

“We are still in shock and trying to process everything that has happened since yesterday,” said Zawqari.

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