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The Houthis (Ansar Allah) have escalated their operations against Saudi Arabia despite ongoing efforts to relaunch the Yemeni peace process.
On March 25, the Yemeni group carried out a large-scale attack on Saudi Arabia. Suicide drones, cruise and ballistic missiles were launched at facilities of Saudi oil giant, Armaco. Other vital targets in the Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, were targeted as well. Also attacked were the western cities of Jeddah and Rabigh, the eastern city of Ras Tanura and the southern cities of Jizan, Najran, Dhahran, Khamis Mushait and Abha.
The attacks didn’t result in any casualties. However, it caused heavy material damage, especially in an Aramco oil storage facility in Jeddah. The facility remained on fire until the morning of March 26.
The Houthis said that the large-scale attack, codenamed “Operation Breaking the Siege 3,” was a response to the Saudi-led coalition’s continuous siege on Yemen.
This was the third large-scale attack by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia in less than a month. The first attack, “Operation Breaking the Siege 1,” took place on March 9 and 10, while the second “Operation Breaking the Siege 2,” took place on March 19 and 20.
The Saudi-led coalition refrained from responding to the two first attacks in order to de-escalate. However, the heavy damage caused by the March 25 attack, forced the coalition to retaliate.
On March 26, the coalition resumed its airstrikes on Houthi-held areas in Yemen. Coalition warplanes targeted several vital facilities in the capital, Sanaa, and in the western province of al-Hudaydah. In Sanaa, the airstrikes claimed the lives of eight civilians and wounded at least eight others.
The coalition claimed that its airstrikes destroyed weapon depots facilities of the Houthis as well as four remotely-controlled booby-trapped boats belonging to the group.
Despite the coalition’s escalation, the Houthis announced on March 26 they will suspend missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia and ground offensive operations in Yemen, including in the central province of Ma’rib, for three days as a part of a peace initiative.
The group said that the initiative could become a lasting commitment if the Saudi-led coalition halted its airstrikes on Yemen and ended its siege on the country’s ports and airports.
The Houthis are not the only side making efforts to relaunch the peace process in Yemen. In mid-March the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) invited the Houthis to peace talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The group welcomed the initiative. However, it said that the talks should be held in a neutral country.
While major differences between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition remain in place, the two sides appear to be willing to de-escalate. The two sides will not likely reach an agreement anytime soon. However, they appear to be close to launching direct talks. This would be a major breakthrough.