November 25, 2019 / 2:24 PM / 14 days ago

Saudi-led coalition carries out air strikes along Yemen's Red Sea coast

ADEN (Reuters) - A Saudi-led military coalition carried out air strikes near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Ras Isa on Monday, residents said, in a rare operation since a U.N.-brokered ceasefire took effect nearly a year ago in Yemen’s Hodeidah region.

Residents reported three air strikes near the oil terminal, one of three western ports that the Iran-aligned Houthi group had unilaterally pulled out from in May under a peace deal reached last December, which has yet to be fully implemented.

“These targets are legitimate military targets that reflect the imminent threat of the terrorist Iran-backed Houthi militia,” coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told Reuters when asked about the air strikes.

The operation took place after the Houthis last week seized and later freed one Saudi-flagged ship and two South Korean vessels, which the group said had entered Yemeni waters due to bad weather. The coalition accused the movement of “hijacking” the ships and said the act threatened global trade.

Houthi-run al Masirah TV earlier said the alliance launched air strikes on Ras Isa and on a Red Sea island early on Monday.

One person was killed in the strikes near Ras Isa, a medical source said. Reuters could not immediately verify the death.

The Sunni Muslim alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from power in the capital Sanaa.

Houthi forces have been driven away from most of Yemen’s coast during the conflict, but still hold Hodeidah, the country’s biggest Red Sea port and the base of the group’s navy.

The number of coalition air strikes had dropped nearly 80% in the last two weeks, U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday, after Saudi Arabia and the Houthis launched informal talks in September on a broader truce in Yemen.

The United Nations is trying to restart political negotiations to end the nearly five year war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Editing by William Maclean

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