Saudi slams Huthi ‘terrorist attack’ on Yemeni soldiers

Missile strike by Iran-backed Huthis kills over 100 Yemeni soldiers during evening prayers at mosque in Marit province of Yemen.

RIYADH -Saudi Arabia slammed on Monday a missile and drone attack by Iran-backed Huthi rebels that slaughtered over 100 Yemeni soldiers.

Saturday's missile strike blamed on the Huthis, which Saudi is leading a military coalition against, follows months of relative calm in the conflict between the rebels and Yemen's internationally recognised government.

The Huthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in the central province of Marib -- about 170 kilometres (105 miles) east of the capital Sanaa -- during evening prayers, government military sources said on Sunday.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the terrorist attack carried out by the Huthi militia," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The assault "reflects this terrorist militia's disregard for sacred places and... for Yemeni blood".

The death toll increased to 116 and is expected to rise, military and medical sources said on Monday. Earlier reports said that 83 were killed and 148 injured.

Death tolls in Yemen's grinding conflict are often disputed, but the huge toll in Marib represents one of the bloodiest single attacks since the war erupted in 2014 when the rebels seized Sanaa.

Relative Calm

The uptick in violence comes shortly after United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed a sharp reduction in air strikes and the movement of ground forces.

"We are surely, and I hope this is true and I hope it will remain so, witnessing one of the quietest periods of this conflict," he said in a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

"Experience however tells us that military de-escalation cannot be sustained without political progress between the parties, and this has become the next challenge."

A year after Yemen's warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered truce for the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and its surroundings, fighting in the province has subsided but the slow implementation of the deal has quashed hopes for an end to the conflict.

The landmark agreement signed in Sweden in December 2018 had been hailed as Yemen's best chance so far to end the fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government, supported by Saudi-led military coalition, has been fighting a proxy war with Iran-backed Huthis since 2014, when rebels seized the northern capital of Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015 to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which the Huthis ousted from power in the capital Sanaa and is now based in the southern port city of Aden.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and millions displaced by the fighting, which the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.