Saudi-led strike 'kills dozens' of Yemen rebels

Coalition intercepted four missiles headed for the southern Saudi coastal city of Jizan
Saudi-led strike 'kills dozens' of Yemen rebels
Yemeni fighters loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni president ride in the back of a pickup truck as they man an antiaircraft gun on a road leading to the town of Khokha Photo: SALEH ALOBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images
Sun 29 Apr 2018 08:17 AM

A Saudi-led coalition air strike has killed dozens of Yemeni rebels including two commanders, state media said Saturday, in another blow to the insurgents following the assassination of their political chief.

The Houthi rebels staged a public funeral on Saturday for Saleh al-Sammad, head of their Supreme Political Council and effectively the insurgents' second-in-command, who was killed last week in an air raid claimed by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

His funeral came hours after Saudi Arabia's state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said two high-ranking insurgents were among more than 50 Houthis killed in a new strike overnight in the capital Sanaa.

In a speech eulogising Sammad on Saturday night, rebel chief Abdul Malik al-Houthi claimed Saudi Arabia and its allies had targeted the outskirts of Sabaeen Square as Houthi supporters gathered for Sammad's funeral.

The rebels' Al-Masirah television aired footage of black columns of smoke billowing outside the square, where Yemenis chanted slogans calling for the demise of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The date of the footage could not be immediately verified.

The rebels have been locked in a war since 2015 with a Saudi-led military alliance fighting to restore the internationally recognised Yemeni government to power.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said the overnight strike had targeted the interior ministry in Sanaa, which is controlled by the rebels.

The Houthis, backed by Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival Iran, confirmed the air strike on Sanaa but gave no details.

The Houthis, who hail from northern Yemen, control Sanaa and much of the country's north -- which borders Saudi Arabia -- and the key Hodeida port on the Red Sea coast.

Houthi missiles

Shortly after Sammad's funeral began, the Houthis said they had launched eight ballistic missiles into the Sunni kingdom.

The coalition confirmed it had intercepted four missiles headed for the southern Saudi coastal city of Jizan, one day after the kingdom's defence forces said they had downed a missile headed for the same area.

While the coalition statement said the attack claimed no casualties, Jizan's civil defence spokesman Colonel Yahya Abdullah al-Qahtani told Al-Arabiya that a Saudi Arabian citizen had been killed by falling shrapnel.

A coalition spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

The rebels have ramped up their missile attacks on Saudi Arabia this year. One person was reported killed by falling shrapnel in Riyadh last month.

Saturday's attacks came just ahead of the arrival of newly appointed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who touched down in Riyadh for meetings set to including talks on the Yemen conflict.

Riyadh and its close ally Washington accuse Iran of arming the Houthis, which Iran denies.

Tehran blames Saudi Arabia for the devastating Yemen war, which has left millions struggling to secure food.

In Sanaa, Houthi supporters lined the streets Saturday for the funeral of Sammad and six others killed in the April 19 strike.

Rebels dressed in military fatigues marched ahead of his hearse, which included seven cars draped in the Yemeni flag and accompanied by a marching band.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led alliance joined the Yemen conflict, triggering what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen now stands on the brink of famine.

The Saudi-led coalition imposed a total blockade on Yemen's ports in November in retaliation for cross-border Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The blockade has since been partially lifted, but access to the impoverished country remains limited.

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