Deadly Saudi coalition strikes hit Yemen presidency

Deadly Saudi coalition strikes hit Yemen presidency
3 min read
A Saudi-led airstrike targeted Houthi rebel leaders in Sanaa.
Six people were killed in the air raids (Getty)
The Saudi-led  coalition said it was behind two air raids Monday on the office of the presidency in Yemen's rebel-held capital, which were reported to have killed six people and wounded dozens.

The intelligence-led strikes targeted a meeting of "first- and second-rank Houthi leaders" in Sanaa, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Maliki said the air raids represented "a painful act" for the Iran-allied Houthis, whose administration uses the presidential office.

The rebels expelled pro-government forces from Sanaa in September 2014 and went on to seize swathes of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has spent the past three years in exile in Saudi Arabia, and the southern port city of Aden has been his government's de facto capital.

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels since 2015 to shore up Hadi's internationally recognised government.

A medical source said there were six people killed and at least 30 others wounded in Monday's attack, whose aftermath was witnessed by AFP reporters.

The rebels' Al-Masirah television channel said the six included a child, and that 86 people had been wounded.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said the bombs landed close to the homes of its staff.

In a statement, NRC country director Suze van Meegen said the aid group was "appalled by Saudi-led coalition strikes on a highly-populated business district in Sanaa earlier today.

"We abhor the ongoing use of violence to intimidate civilian populations under the guise of efforts to protect them".

The raids, van Meegen said, "follow a trend of underreported attacks on civilians across the country".

Witnesses said the presidential office, located in the Tahrir district of Sanaa, is normally bustling with employees of the Houthi rebels.

'People trapped'

Residents living close to the presidential office said they heard two powerful explosions hit the building, located near a hotel, shops, and not far from the central bank.

"We were working next door to the presidential offices and heard a plane, and then an explosion," Ahmed Dehashir, a first responder, told AFP at the scene of the attack.

"Some people rushed to the scene and saw the destruction and people caught under the rubble. We tried to dig out the dead and wounded from under the debris, and then there was a second strike," he said.

"There are a lot of people trapped under the rubble."

The strikes came hours after Saudi Arabia's air defences intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis that targeted the south of the kingdom, Malki said earlier on Monday.

He said the rockets were launched from northern Yemen toward "populated areas" of Saudi Arabia, but were intercepted overnight without any casualties or damage.

"This hostile act... proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime in supporting the Houthi militia with qualitative capabilities," Maliki added.

Since November, the Iran-backed insurgents have intensified missile attacks into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has left nearly 10,000 people dead, tens of thousands wounded, and millions on the brink of famine in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.