UAE urges Houthis to 'unconditionally' withdraw from Hodeidah

Two missiles launched by the Houthis targeted densely populated areas in Riyadh, according to the Saudi-led coalition spokesman.
Monday 25/06/2018
Debris of Iranian-made Ababil drones displayed Abu Dhabi, which the Emirati armed forces say were used by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (AFP)
Debris of Iranian-made Ababil drones displayed Abu Dhabi, which the Emirati armed forces say were used by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (AFP)

LONDON - Saudi Arabia’s missile defence systems intercepted missiles launched by the Iran-allied Houthi rebels targeting the capital Riyadh on Sunday, according to Saudi state-owned media. 

Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya TV tweeted a video showing "the interception over Riyadh of a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi militias."

The missile was one of two launched from Yemen’s Saada governorate that were detected by the Royal Saudi Air Defence Sunday night, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition Turki Al-Maliki said in a statement.

Maliki said the two missiles targeted densely populated areas, but were intercepted and destroyed by the kingdom’s air defence forces.  

He stressed that the missile strike was further evidence of Iran's support for the Houthis, in breach of UN Resolutions 2216 and 223.  

The Houthis said the attack was a response to an offence launched by troops loyal to the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition fight for the strategic port of Hodeidah, believed to be the militia’s main access site for weapons smuggling.

"Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect," Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. "The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities."

The Houthi strikes come as the United Nations tries to broker talks between warring factions in Yemen. UN special envoy Martin Griffiths is due to arrive in the southern city of Aden on June 27 for talks with Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, but the attempted missile attack further complicates mediation. 

"He will only be there for a few hours and the talks will focus on the situation in Hodeidah and (on) averting any military operation on the port," an official told Reuters.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a main pillar of the anti-Houthi coalition, has called for the militia to "unconditionally" withdraw from the port city of Hodeidah.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that Houthi rebels must "withdraw unconditionally from the port and city" of Hodeidah, accusing them of "holding humanitarian operations and civilians hostage."

"Menacing reports of Houthi snipers and weapons being placed in Hodeidah's neighbourhoods are additional arguments to bring about an unconditional withdrawal from the city. Civilians should not be used as human shields," Gargash said.

As fighting continued, the Saudi-led coalition reported that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group were killed in north-west Yemen 

The coalition said that 41 “terrorist elements” had been targeted in military operations near Oqbat Marraan in the mountainous Saada region.

“Among the dead are eight members from Lebanon’s terrorist Hezbollah,” said the coalition statement, without providing further details.

Iran is the main backer of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the anti-Houthi coalition previously noted their presence on the ground in Yemen.