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Saudi-led coalition launches a military operation north of Hodeidah in Yemen

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The Saudi-led coalition launched a military operation north of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on Friday against what it called “legitimate military targets” in a development that could exacerbate tensions in the region after a weekend attack on two Saudi oil facilities.

The coalition said it destroyed four sites used to “assemble and trap remote-controlled boats and sea mines”. The destruction of “hostile” sites contributed to the freedom of maritime navigation.

Coalition Forces spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said in a statement that the sites were used “to carry out hostilities and terrorist operations that threaten shipping lines and international trade in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the southern Red Sea.”

The Houthi group in Yemen, which claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack on the two Saudi oil facilities, said through its Al-Masirah channel that the coalition violated the UN agreement reached in Sweden.

The Western-backed Sunni coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi group after the group ousted the internationally recognized government in Sanaa in late 2014.

A ceasefire in Hodeidah and a redeployment of troops were reached during peace talks in Sweden last year in a confidence-building measure to pave the way for talks to end the war, but the measures stalled for months before the Houthis pulled out of three Red Sea ports.

Al-Maliki added that the Houthis used Hodeidah to “launch ballistic missiles, drones, booby-trapped boats and remote march as well as the random deployment of naval mines.”

The coalition had previously asked civilians not to approach the targets of the operation and stressed that the military operation was in accordance with international humanitarian law and had taken the necessary precautionary measures.

“We had forgotten the raids and fear and slept for months quietly,” resident Mohammed Abdullah told Reuters. “But the sound of explosions and planes terrified us tonight as the city continues to fly.”

The coalition said on Thursday it intercepted a boat loaded with explosives and destroyed it after the Houthis fired it from Yemen.

The Houthis, who have threatened to expand their attacks in Saudi Arabia, have previously targeted oil tankers off Yemen on one side of the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, one of the world’s most vital shipping routes for oil tankers.

This comes at a time when the United States and Saudi Arabia are discussing how to respond to the attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Iran. Tehran denies any role in the attack.

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