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Yemen: Saudi-led coalition launches 'large-scale' attack after deadly strike

Military operation comes in response to a Houthi attack that killed three people in Saudi Arabia's border town of Jizan
An airport staffer shows documents at the scene of Saudi-led air strikes at Sanaa airport on 21 December 2021 (Reuters)

The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday launched a "large-scale" attack on Yemen after a projectile killed two people in the kingdom, in the first such deaths in three years blamed on the Houthi movement.

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The coalition retaliated with an air strike on Ajama, a town northwest of Yemen's Houthi-held capital, Sanaa, killing three people and wounding six others, Yemeni medics said.

Following the attack on Ajama, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree warned Saudi Arabia of a "painful" response if the coalition does not stop its "aggression".

In a statement published on the Houthis' Telegram channel, he said the Iran-aligned group had launched three ballistic missiles on Jizan.

Saudi's civil defence said on Friday that the projectile attack on Jizan, a southern region bordering Yemen, killed two people, one Saudi and the other Yemeni, wounded seven others and damaged 12 cars and two shops.

"A military projectile fell on a commercial store on the main street, resulting in two deaths," it said in a statement, adding that six Saudis and a Bangladeshi national were wounded.

The Saudi-led military coalition said shortly afterwards that it was "preparing for a large-scale military operation".

Another Houthi projectile hit the Saudi city of Najran, causing material damage.

Yemeni medics told AFP that the coalition's retaliatory attack killed three civilians, including a child and a woman.

Escalation 

The Houthis regularly launch missiles and drones into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, targeting its airports and oil infrastructure, but Friday's attack was the first in more than three years that has resulted in fatalities in the kingdom. 

It also came as fighting between the two sides intensifies, with the coalition escalating air strikes on Sanaa.

Coalition forces struck a Houthi military camp in the centre of Sanaa early on Friday, with residents telling Reuters explosions rocked the city.

On 23 December, the military alliance said it shot down a bomb-laden drone near Abha airport, in the south of the kingdom.

Earlier this week, the coalition targeted Sanaa airport, whose operations have largely ceased because of a Saudi-led blockade, imposed since August 2016, with exemptions for aid flights.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the war between the internationally recognised government, backed by the coalition, and the Houthis broke out in 2014.

A UN report published in November projected that the death toll from the war would reach 377,000 by the end of 2021.

The World Food Programme on Wednesday said it has been "forced" to cut aid to Yemen due to lack of funds, and warned of a surge in hunger in the country, where more than 80 percent of the population of about 30 million requires humanitarian assistance.