Saudi coalition says it targeted rebel-held Yemen airport

CAIRO (AP) — A Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen said it launched “precision airstrikes” on Monday against rebel targets at the airport in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

The strikes came just over an hour after the coalition asked U.N. agencies and civilians to immediately leave the airport. The coalition claims the Houthi rebels have turned Sanaa International Airport into a military base for launching ballistic missiles and explosive-laded drones into Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis have held Yemen’s capital since September 2014. Though the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition halted their march south in 2015, the war has slogged on for years and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

There were no immediate details from either side on what was hit in the strikes and no word on any casualties or damage. U.N. agencies in Yemen also did not comment on the call to evacuate their staff from the airport.

The rebel Houthis, meanwhile, barred at least two U.N. humanitarian planes from landing at the Sanaa airport, according to two Yemeni officials.

A U.N. aid official said the Houthis also canceled all humanitarian flights scheduled in the coming days. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

In the past months, fighting has escalated between the rebels and forces of the internationally recognized government around the central city of Marib and the coastal city of Hodeida. The coalition has also increased its airstrikes on Sanaa and other rebel-held areas in Yemen in recent weeks.

The rebels have also accelerated their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted an explosive-laden drone launched Sunday night by the Houthis on King Abdullah airport in the southern Saudi province of Jizan.

Yemen’s war began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis, who control much of the country’s north. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in 2015, determined to restore the government and oust the rebels.

The conflict has since become a regional proxy war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and fighters and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

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