The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Saturday set the Houthis a three-hour deadline to withdraw weapons from the airport of Sanaa and from two ports on the Red Sea, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported.
Retaining weapons in the Yemeni capital’s airport and the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef would “end their status” as safe regions not to be targeted by coalition air strikes, it said, without saying exactly at what time the deadline would expire.
The coalition said earlier on Saturday it was carrying out air strikes on Sanaa and Hodeidah in reaction to Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities.
A senior Saudi official said on Saturday that Houthi rebels have proposed a ceasefire and peace talks to end the country’s crippling war in return for opening the capital’s airport and the key port of Hodeidah.
“The Houthis put forward an initiative through mediators that includes a truce, opening the airport (Sanaa) and the port (Hodeida) and Yemeni-Yemeni discussions,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
“We are waiting for it to be officially announced because they (Houthis) are constantly changing their words,” he added.
A Riyadh-based diplomat said that Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, had led recent efforts to reach a truce during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early April.
The coalition unleashed a barrage of air strikes on the capital and a strategic Red Sea city. At least eight people were killed.
The overnight air strikes on Sanaa and Hodeidah — both held by the Houthis — came a day after the rebels attacked an oil depot in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
Brig-Gen. Turki Al Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the strikes targeted “sources of threat” to Saudi Arabia, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency or SPA.
He said the coalition intercepted and destroyed two explosives-laden drones early Saturday. He said the drones were launched from Houthi-held civilian oil facilities in Hodeidah, urging civilians to stay away from oil facilities in the city.
Al Malki said it targeted drones being prepared in Hodeidah to be launched on the Kingdom. He accused the Houthis of using civilian infrastructure, such as Hodeidah’s ports and the Sanaa airport, to launch attacks on Saudi oil facilities, according to SPA.