Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they captured many Saudi soldiers and officers in a large operation near the border between the two countries on Saturday, shortly after the kingdom agreed to a limited cease-fire with the Iranian-backed group.
If true, the escalation will likely deal a blow to efforts to end a war that’s killed thousands and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Saudi Arabia mobilized a military coalition in 2015 to back Yemen’s internationally-recognized government against the Shiite rebels.
The Houthis, in a statement carried by the Saba news agency, said they destroyed three enemy brigades after “just 72 hours of the operation.”
Thousands of people have been taken prisoners, including “many Saudi commanders, officers and soldiers.” A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The announcement comes almost two weeks after the Houthis took credit for the devastating attack on key Saudi Aramco oil facilities that briefly halved the country’s output and rattled global markets this month. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the attack, which they said wasn’t launched from Yemen.
Yahya Saree, a spokesman for the Houthi-controlled forces, said those captured would be paraded on the group’s TV network on Sunday, the BBC reported.
Last week, the Houthis announced a unilateral halt to the hundreds of drone and missile attacks that have targeted OPEC’s largest producer in recent years. An official with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government said Friday that the kingdom has agreed to a cease-fire in several areas of Yemen including the capital Sana’a.
Saudi Arabia views the conflict with the Houthis as a proxy war with Iran.
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