Security

Arab coalition strikes aimed to halt Houthis' threats

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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In this file photo taken February 23rd, smoke billows following an Arab coalition airstrike in Sanaa. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Arab coalition's Monday (March 30th) military operation supported its goal of ending the Iranian-Houthi missile threat to Saudi cities, military experts said.

Arab coalition warplanes carried out more than 20 airstrikes in Sanaa, al-Hodeidah and Saada as part of a targeted operation to destroy military targets belonging to the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

The retaliatory strikes came after the Houthis on Saturday launched ballistic missiles at the Saudi cities of Jizan and Riyadh -- a move that met with widespread international condemnation.

Monday's strikes targeted the Houthis' arms depots, facilities where ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are assembled and stored, as well as sites where Iranian experts are stationed, the Arab coalition said.

They hit the militia's military positions in Sanaa and to the north of the city, with the 1st Armoured Division headquarters, the radio station headquarters, the Military College, Jabal Atan and al-Dailami airbase among the targeted areas.

In a Tuesday statement, Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani reiterated that the Yemeni government and Arab coalition welcome the UN's call "for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen".

He condemned the Houthis' military escalation, saying that efforts should be directed towards fighting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

"The continued military escalation by Iran's mercenaries, and their behaviour as a remote-controlled tool used to kill Yemenis, undermine security and stability, attack neighbouring countries and threaten global trade, confirms they are a terrorist militia that does not care about the suffering of our Yemeni people," he said.

A continuing threat

The Arab coalition targeted areas the Houthis have used as missile launchpads in order to protect the region from their attacks and ensure the safety of international navigation, said military expert Yahya Abu Hatim.

The interception of "Iranian-Houthi" missiles in the kingdom's airspace "foiled the plans of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to undermine Saudi Arabia's security and stability", he told Al-Mashareq.

He accused the Houthis of taking advantage of the Arab coalition's agreement to a ceasefire in response to the UN initiative to mobilise efforts to fight the virus.

"The Houthis' continued targeting of cities in Saudi Arabia and maritime navigation means Iranian weapons continue to flow [to Yemen] to serve [Iran's] goals and its subversive project in the region," he said.

"This must be confronted and thwarted," Abu Hatim added.

He also accused the Houthis of implementing Iran's agenda -- destabilising Arab countries -- and noted that Iran is harnessing all its resources to do this, "instead of using those resources to fight the coronavirus on its own territory".

The Houthis' targeting of Saudi Arabia confirms that "the IRGC controls the decisions of the Houthis", political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

This is because the group's leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, "agreed to a ceasefire to fight the coronavirus, then went back on his decision and launched missiles at Saudi Arabia", he said.

Ahmed stressed the importance of subduing the Houthis militarily "not only with airstrikes, but also by supporting the national army on the ground on all fronts and advancing towards Sanaa".

This "would force the Houthis to rush to make peace", he said.

A global priority

Fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic has become "a global priority, and Iran must push the Houthis to agree to a ceasefire and move towards comprehensive peace negotiations" to support this action, Ahmed said.

"The fact that the Houthis and Iran passed up the opportunity for a ceasefire confirms they do not care about the health of the people or what happens to them, even amid the gravity of the coronavirus outbreak," he said.

"If, God forbid, the virus enters Yemen, it would cause the largest health catastrophe in the world," he said, noting that even the health sectors in developed countries are struggling to contain the coronavirus.

"What can be expected from the health sector in Yemen that has been devastated by five years of war?" he asked.

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