Air raids cripple Yemen’s main airport
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Air raids cripple Yemen’s main airport

15 rebel troops killed as Saudi-led campaign hammers Houthi positions and weapons depots

Smoke billows from the site of an explosion that hit an arms depot in Yemen's second city of Aden on March 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/SALEH AL-OBEIDI)
Smoke billows from the site of an explosion that hit an arms depot in Yemen's second city of Aden on March 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/SALEH AL-OBEIDI)

Arab coalition warplanes targeting Iran-backed rebels bombed the runway at the Yemeni capital’s international airport and killed 15 pro-rebel troops elsewhere in Sanaa, military and aviation sources said Sunday.

On the fourth night of raids against Shiite rebels and allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saudi-led strikes paralyzed the airport in the rebel-controlled capital.

“This was the first time they hit the runway” since the campaign began, an aviation source said, a day after UN staff were evacuated from Sanaa. “The airport is completely out of service,” he said.

Witnesses reported hearing three loud explosions and seeing a large fire when the air facility was hit around midnight (2100 GMT Saturday).

Meanwhile, overnight airstrikes hit the headquarters of the rebel republican guard at Al-Subaha base in Sanaa, killing 15 soldiers, a military official said.

A medic at a military hospital in the capital said it had received 12 bodies and 18 wounded soldiers after the raid.

Airstrikes also targeted an airbase in rebel-held Hudaida, in western Yemen, witnesses said, as part of efforts to destroy air defense capabilities.

Other raids targeted a base of the First Artillery Brigade in Saada, the northern stronghold of the Huthi Shiite rebels.

The Saudi-led airstrike campaign has pushed them out of contested air bases and destroyed any jet fighter remaining in the Arab world’s poorest country, the kingdom has said.

Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed bin Hasan Asiri said the airstrike campaign, continued to target Scud missiles in Yemen, leaving most of their launching pads “devastated,” according to remarks carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

However, he warned Saturday that the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, could control more of the missiles. His account could not be immediately corroborated.

The Houthis began their offensive in September, seizing the capital, Sanaa, and later holding embattled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest. The rebels later took over government in Yemen and ultimately forced Hadi to flee the country in recent days.

A Saudi-led coalition of some 10 countries began bombing Yemen on Thursday, saying it was targeting the Houthis and their allies, which include forces loyal to Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On Saturday, Hadi directly accused Iran of being behind the Houthi offensive as leaders at an Arab summit considered creating a military reaction force in the Mideast, raising the specter of a regional conflict pitting Sunni Arab nations against Shiite power Iran. Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement, though the Islamic Republic has provided humanitarian and other aid.

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