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Yemen: Lebanon's Hezbollah rebuffs Saudi claims of aiding Houthis

The Saudi-led coalition has accused Hezbollah of training and advising the Iran-aligned Houthis at Sanaa airport
A soldier loyal to Yemen's Houthi rebels inspects the rubble of a building destroyed following a reported air strike by the Saudi-led coalition, on 21 December 2021 (AFP)

The Lebanese group Hezbollah on Monday rejected as “ridiculous” and “insignificant” Saudi Arabia’s claims that it was helping Yemen’s Houthis attack the Gulf Kingdom.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition on Sunday accused the Shia group of aiding the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in "militarising" Sanaa airport and using it as a "main centre for launching ballistic missiles and drones" into the kingdom.

The accusations came as fighting between the two sides intensified, with the coalition escalating air strikes on Sanaa. In recent weeks, the coalition has upped its strikes on Sanaa airport, accusing the Houthis of using the base as a launching pad for their attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Operations at the airport have largely ceased because of a Saudi-led blockade, imposed since August 2016, with exemptions for aid flights.

On Friday, the Saudi southern border town of Jizan was struck by a projectile that killed two people and wounded seven others.

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The attack marked the first such fatalities in three years and prompted the coalition to launch a "large-scale" aerial bombing campaign against the Houthis. 

'Experts at the airport'

Following the strikes, General Turki al-Malki, the coalition’s spokesman, shared video footage at a press conference on Sunday that he claimed depicted “the headquarters of Iranian and Hezbollah experts at the airport”, where the Houthis were being trained in assembling bomb-laden drones.

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One clip shows a man, purported to be a Hezbollah official, loading explosive charges into a drone.

Another video captures a man, also alleged to be a Hezbollah official, promising a senior Houthi member “mujaheddin” fighters from the battlefields of Syria and emphasising the importance of keeping Hodeidah port secure in order to bring arms and fighters into the country.

Middle East Eye couldn’t independently verify the videos.

On Monday, the Houthis announced a resumption of flights by the United Nations and international organisations into Sanaa airport, the Houthi-run Saba news agency reported.

The group said earlier this month that the airport was out of operation due to coalition air strikes. 

Yemen has been roiled by war since 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa. Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government soon after, leading a coalition of Arab states to oust the rebels.

The conflict is widely seen to have devolved into a bitter proxy conflict between Tehran and Riyadh, leading to what the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

The Saudi-led coalition is accused by rights groups of launching thousands of errant air strikes in the country, while the Houthis have regularly fired ballistic missiles and drones into the Kingdom.

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