Yemen raids halted to push peace efforts: Saudi-led coalition
US imposes sanctions targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels over offensive
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen said on Thursday it had stopped carrying out attacks there in order to pave the way for a peaceful settlement.
The statement comes amid growing diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire agreement after more than six years of devastating conflict.
It also follows reports that the coalition had struck a Houthi armoured division near the rebel-held capital Sanaa Thursday.
AFP correspondents in the city heard loud explosions and saw smoke rising in the sky.
But coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki told Saudi state television that “no military operation has been carried out in the vicinity of Sanaa or any other Yemeni cities in the past period”.
The de-escalation is aimed at “preparing the political ground for a peace process in Yemen”, he added.
Shortly after his comments, Yemeni state media reported that at least eight civilians had been killed and 27 others wounded in strikes in the northern city of Marib.
It blamed the rebels for the attack.
The government-run Saba news agency said the Houthis had launched two ballistic missiles and two booby-trapped drones targeting a mosque in a residential area, a women’s prison, and ambulances that were rushing to the scene after initial strikes.
Among the casualties were medics and women, it added.
On Saturday, a similar strike killed at least 14 civilians at a petrol station in the city.
In another sign of progress in peace efforts, Houthi officials have begun repairing roads near Sanaa airport, local sources told AFP, indicating that the facility could soon be reopened.
Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday imposed sanctions targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels as it voiced exasperation that the Iranian-banked insurgents have kept up a military cam paign.
President Joe Biden’s administration — which has used sanctions more sparingly than Donald Trump’s previous team — also removed sanctions on several former Iranian officials, saying it was acknowledging changes in behavior.
The Treasury Department said it was imposing sanctions on several individuals including Said Al Jamal, a Houthi supporter who allegedly has run a smuggling network out of Iran to sell oil illicitly to benefit the insurgents.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was hoping to exert pressure on the Houthi rebels to end their offensive launched in February to seize Marib, the last significant pocket of government-held territory in the north.
“It is time for the Houthis to accept a ceasefire and for all parties to resume political talks,” Blinken said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to apply pressure to the Houthis, including through targeted sanctions, to advance those goals,” he said.
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