Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia erode prospects for Yemen peace

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi and AFP

Pro-government fighters man a position near the frontline facing the Houthis in Yemen's Marib province on June 19. [AFP]

Pro-government fighters man a position near the frontline facing the Houthis in Yemen's Marib province on June 19. [AFP]

ADEN -- Saudi Arabia is intercepting drones fired at it on a near daily basis by the Iran-backed Houthis -- attacks that Yemeni government officials say seriously undermine the chances to achieve long-sought peace.

Saudi air defences on Saturday (June 19) intercepted 17 explosives-laden drones fired at the kingdom from Yemen by the Houthis, the most in a single day since the conflict began, the Arab coalition said.

The drones targeted the southern part of the kingdom, with three directed towards the Khamis Mushayt region, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Earlier this month, a bomb-laden drone launched by the Houthis crashed into a girls’ school in southern Asir province, Saudi state media said.

No injuries were reported in the strike.

But during a Sunday media tour of the school, whose shrapnel-scarred roof was littered with glass, ball bearings and twisted metal, officials said some terrified parents were refusing to send their children to attend classes.

"There is no military target here... it's clear the Houthis are deliberately hitting civilians," a local official said.

Meanwhile, military sources on Saturday said renewed battles between Yemeni forces and the Houthis over the strategic northern city of Marib have left 47 dead, among them 16 pro-government forces.

"We are seriously concerned at the continuing impact of fighting on civilians and the targeting of civilian objects in Marib," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on June 18.

She pointed to a June 10 attack on a civilian compound in Marib city, where the governor's office is housed, with what is believed to be missiles and an explosives-laden drone, that killed eight police officers and wounded 30 civilians.

A few days earlier, on June 5, a gas station reserved for military personnel and authorised civilians near Marib was hit by a missile launched by the Houthis, killing some 21 people, including civilians.

Diplomatic efforts falter

The latest violence comes as a diplomatic push to secure a ceasefire in Yemen has failed.

The Houthis' recent escalation on all domestic fronts and their deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia undermine peace efforts, Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Muammar al-Eryani said Tuesday.

In escalating attacks on Saudi Arabia, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi has two objectives, Deputy Minister of Justice Faisal al-Majeedi told Al-Mashareq.

First, he seeks to demonstrate that the Houthis are affiliated with Iran and that "the peace-making decision isn’t in their hands", he said, noting that this is a harbinger of things to come with Iran's new hardline president Ebrahim Raisi.

“The second goal is to send a message both inside and outside Yemen, to the effect that they will continue to escalate, and that they have become stronger, and therefore won’t accept peace,” al-Majeedi said.

“The Houthis think they can impose their conditions, which are basically Iran’s conditions, including opening Sanaa airport and al-Hodeidah port in full without any concessions or acceptance of the initiatives that have been made,” he said.

In so doing, however, they may find themselves facing sanctions, he said.

Opposite direction of peace

Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq the Houthis are moving in the opposite direction of peace.

“The more regional and international diplomatic efforts are made to achieve peace in Yemen, the more intransigent the Houthis become, by stepping up the conflict and their missile and drone attacks on Saudi soil,” he said.

“As proof, just look at the huge number of drones that the Houthis have launched over the past two days,” he added.

“The world is moving towards peace, but unfortunately, the Houthis are getting their decision from Tehran," he said. “The problem is that coups are usually accompanied by the illusion of power.”

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