RIYADH: A Saudi-led coalition launched air attacks in Yemen on Sunday, hours after Houthi rebels announced a three-day cease-fire, with the UN Secretary-General criticizing an increase in violence as the war entered its eighth year.
According to Saudi Arabia’s media, the airstrikes targeted Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, which tweeted at around midnight, “the launch of air strikes against Houthi camps and strongholds in Sanaa.”
The attacks came after the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, declared a three-day cease-fire and offered peace talks in exchange for the Saudis ending their air raids and embargo of Yemen and removing “foreign forces.”
On Friday, the rebels attacked 16 targets in Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles, turning an oil plant near Jeddah’s Formula One track into a raging blaze as stunned drivers gazed on.
Hans Grundberg’s office tweeted on Sunday that he is “working with all factions and continues his efforts towards a truce throughout Ramadan,” the Muslim holy month that begins in April.
“He reiterates his demand for de-escalation and applauds any actions taken by the parties in that direction,” the statement continued.
The coalition has yet to respond to the Houthis’ declaration of a cease-fire.
The barrage of attacks and diplomacy occurred as Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, observed the seventh anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention against the Houthis, who took control of Sanaa in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly as a result of the violence, which has resulted in the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster, according to the United Nations.
The abrupt increase in hostilities was criticized by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday. According to him, eight civilians were killed in retaliatory strikes on Sanaa following Friday’s rebel raids, including five children and two women.
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns the current escalation of the violence in Yemen,” the statement said, adding that Guterres is “deeply concerned” about reports of coalition attacks on the lifeline port of Hodeida. He urged the warring parties to “immediately de-escalate” and reach a “negotiated settlement” with Grundberg’s help.
Thousands of protesters marched in Sanaa on Saturday, holding placards and chanting, to protest the Saudi-led intervention, which began on March 26, 2015, and involved nine countries.
Today, Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates are the only countries that claim to have withdrawn troops from Yemen but are still active players on the ground, training militias.
The coalition’s operation halted the Houthis’ progress in the south and east of the country, but it was unable to drive them out of the north, including Sanaa.