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Saudi-led coalition says it launched air strikes against Houthi military targets in Sanaa

Bombings come as Human Rights Watch condemns Houthi missile attack on kingdom's Abha airport
Saudi state TV said the strikes hit air-defence systems and military positions in Houthi-controlled Sanaa (AFP - File pic)

The Saudi-led coalition has launched air strikes on Houthi forces in Yemen's capital Sanaa, Saudi state television reported early on Saturday, as attacks from both sides continue to escalate. 

The Saudi strikes hit air-defence systems and military positions in the Houthi-controlled city, days after the rebels launched a missile attack on the kingdom's Abha airport, according to local Saudi media. 

The attack on the airport's arrivals hall on Wednesday wounded 26 civilians, including two children.

Riyadh said on Thursday that it had intercepted five unmanned drones heading towards Abha airport and the nearby city of Khamis Mushait, which houses a major air base. 

The Houthis confirmed they launched the attack early on Friday. 

Backed by the West, the Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis in Yemen since 2015 in a bid to restore the internationally recognised government that was forced out of Sanaa by the Houthis. 

The Yemen conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But the Houthis have denied taking any orders from Tehran and say they took up arms against corruption.

In recent months, the Houthis have stepped up drone and missile attacks on cities in neighbouring Saudi Arabia as tensions escalate between Iran and its Gulf neighbours. 

HRW condemns Abha airport attack

Condemning the Abha airport attack, Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch told Reuters news agency: "Unlawful Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen never justify Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians."

The escalation in violence could threaten a fragile UN-led peace initiative in Yemen's main port city of Hodeidah, which handles the bulk of the impoverished country's commercial and aid imports and is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis

The UN said in February that at least 7,000 civilians had been killed and more than 11,000 injured in the fighting since March 2015, with 65 percent of the deaths attributed to Saudi-led coalition air strikes.

But it said that those totals only refer to victims that UN staff have been able to independently verify.

A US-based international group tracking the civil war said in April that it believes the death toll is far higher. 

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project estimates that more than 70,000 civilians and combatants have been killed since January 2016, based on news reports of each incident of violence.