US urges Yemen's Houthis to end 'aggressive acts' following Saudi drone attack

US urges Yemen's Houthis to end 'aggressive acts' following Saudi drone attack
3 min read
10 February, 2021
The United States urged Yemen's Houthi rebels to halt all forms of aggression, just hours after a drone attack on Saudi Arabia's Abha airport.
Yemen's rebels have launched several cross-border attacks [Getty]
The United States on Wednesday demanded that Yemen's Houthi rebels end attacks following a drone strike that came days after President Joe Biden moved to end its designation as a terrorist group.

"There is no military solution to the war in Yemen. We again urge the Houthis to immediately stop these aggressive acts," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Price called on the Houthis to "demonstrate a true commitment to constructively engage in peace negotiations," noting that the new US envoy on Yemen, Tim Lenderking, was visiting Saudi Arabia.

Price indicated that the Biden administration did not intend to reconsider removing the Houthis from the terrorist blacklist - a last-minute decision by Donald Trump's administration that aid groups said would jeopardise humanitarian work.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken's "intent to revoke this designation has absolutely nothing to do with the reprehensible conduct of the Houthis," Price said.

"We remain committed to improving support for our partner Saudi Arabia to defend itself against threats to its territory.”

The rebels on Wednesday targeted an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia causing a civilian plane on the tarmac to catch fire, the kingdom's state television reported, an attack that threatens to escalate Yemen's grinding war.

Firefighters brought the blaze at Abha airport under control, Saudi state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV said, without reporting on possible casualties from the assault. Saudi officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Iran-backed Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack soon afterward, with military spokesman Yahia Saria saying the group used four bomb-laden drones to target the airport.

“This targeting comes in response to the continued aerial bombardment and the brutal siege on our country,” Saria said, stressing that the Houthis consider the airport a military not civilian target.

Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen, said the forces intercepted and destroyed two of the four bomb-laden drones launched by Houthis toward the country's south. 

He condemned the assault as a “systematic and deliberate attempt to target civilians."

Read more: US shakes up Yemen policy, but long road to peace

Since 2015, Yemen’s Houthis have repeatedly targeted international airports in their battle with the Saudi-led coalition, along with military installations and critical oil infrastructure, within Saudi Arabia. 

The Houthis have long used drones against Saudi Arabia, sometimes crashing them into the kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries. Those attacks, often striking near the southern cities of Abha and Jizan, have wounded dozens and killed at least one person over recent years.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen on behalf of the internationally-recognised government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in early 2015, following the Houthis seizure of the Yemeni capital Sana’a. 

The war has devastated the impoverished country and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

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