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Saudi-led coalition air strikes rock Yemen's Sanaa after oil pipe attack

Six members of the same family - all civilians - killed in the raid, a resident tells MEE
A Houthi security officer reacts at the site of an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa (Reuters)

Warplanes struck the Houthi-held Yemeni capital on Thursday, two days after the rebels claimed drone strikes that shut a key oil pipeline in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government confirmed that its warplanes had bombed rebel targets.

"We have begun to launch air strikes targeting sites operated by the Houthi militia, including in Sanaa," a coalition official, who declined to be identified, told the AFP news agency.

Ahmed al-Shamiri, a resident of the al-Raqas neighbourhood hit by the coalition, was sleeping when an air strike targeted a house next to his home on Thursday morning.

"I live on the first floor and the fourth floor of our building was damaged by the air strike, but there were no injuries," Shamiri told Middle East Eye.

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Shamiri said the sound of neighbours crying and glass shattering was terrifying.

"When I went out, I found children crying and people trying to help victims under the ruins," he said.

Yemeni men carry the body of a dead woman, who was killed by Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa
Yemeni men carry the body of a dead woman, who was killed by Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa (Reuters)

According to Shamiri, warplanes hovered over the area after the air strike and people were worried that rescue workers would be targeted as they picked people out of the rubble.

"I helped people look for victims under ruins, and we found some children, women and men under ruins. The air strike targeted them while they were sleeping, and there were six deaths including two children," Shamiri said.

All those killed belonged to the same family and all of them are civilians, he said.

If Saudis want to take revenge on the Houthis, they can target them far from residential areas

- Ahmed Al-Shamiri, Sanaa resident

"There are no Houthi leaders inside our houses and no stores of weapons in the bedrooms so I want to tell the Saudis to stop killing Yemenis," he said.

"If Saudis want to take revenge on the Houthis, they can target them far from residential areas."

The Saudi-led coalition, which receives weapons and other support from the West, intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthi movement ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi from Sanaa.

Coalition air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians during the conflict, with rights groups accusing the military alliance of war crimes.

Pipeline attack

On Tuesday, the Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for twin drone strikes on Saudi Arabia's main east-west oil pipeline, saying that they were a response to "crimes" committed by Riyadh during the war.

Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister, Khalid bin Salman, on Thursday accused Iran of ordering the attack.

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Tuesday's "attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region," the prince said on Twitter.

The pipeline, which can carry five million barrels of crude per day, provides a strategic alternative route for Saudi exports if the shipping lane from the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

Saudi Foreign Minister Khalid al-Falih said that Saudi oil output and exports for crude and refined products were continuing without disruption, but that the state oil giant Aramco had halted oil pumping in the pipeline while the damage was evaluated and the stations were repaired, according to a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

On Wednesday, the Saudi cabinet called for "confronting terrorist entities which carry out such sabotage acts, including the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen".

Coalition partner the United Arab Emirates echoed the call.

"We will retaliate and we will retaliate hard when we see Houthis hitting civilian targets like what happened in Saudi Arabia," the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said. 

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