Houthis claim they've downed Saudi fighter jet

Houthi forces claim Saudi jet shot down in Yemen
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Story highlights

  • Saudi officials say they will not comment on the Houthi claim of a jet shot down
  • Images on social media purport to show parts of a downed jet, but skepticism is abundant
  • One image being shared online shows a chunk of metal bearing words, "Royal Saudi Air Force"

(CNN)Rebels are claiming to have shot down a Saudi Arabian fighter jet on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, a Houthi military official said, but the Yemeni Embassy in Washington denied the claim as the Saudis remained silent.

The Houthi official said the downed jet was an F-16, and several images published online -- including on the Yemen Post's Twitter and Facebook feeds -- showed a purported image of the jet ablaze along with a photo of a piece of metal with the words, "Royal Saudi Air Force."
    Houthi rebels seized two unexploded missiles from the site, and the pilot remains missing, the Yemen Post tweeted. One of the photos that the paper posted appeared to show an intact missile.
    The news service later reported, citing the Yemen Defense Ministry, that the plane was an F-15, not an F-16.
    CNN could find no record of the Saudi military possessing F-16s, but it does have many F-15s.
    In response to an inquiry from CNN, a Saudi official said the government would not comment on the claim. CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the still images and video footage shared online.
    Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, tweeted at first that the report couldn't be confirmed before tweeting 10 hours later on Sunday that "reports of a downed F16/F15 in Yemen are false."
    Those skeptical of the reports note that the images of the wreckage don't show the plane's body, only a missile and auxiliary fuel tank, both of which can be dropped by a pilot.
    This is not the first time the Houthis have said they downed a foreign fighter jet, nor would it be the first time such a report was denied.
    Earlier this month, they claimed to have shot down a Moroccan F-16 that was part of Saudi-led strikes in Yemen, but a Saudi military spokesman said the plane crashed, Reuters reported.
    In late March, Houthis claimed they shot down a Sudanese jet, capturing the pilot. They distributed photos of the pilot and wreckage to back up the claim.
    The Saudi-led coalition of nine countries conducted 94 airstrikes in the Yemeni capital Sunday, targeting six military bases, two Yemen Defense Ministry officials told CNN. The strikes on Sanaa remained ongoing into at least the early evening, but no casualties were reported.
    On Saturday, according to the defense ministry officials, Saudi-led strikes hit several Houthi-held positions in the capital, including a military depot. In the suburb of Sanhan, the hometown of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key Houthi ally, strikes targeted residences and military depots, the officials said.
    Strikes also hit a military base in the Sanaa suburb of Khulan; a police training center in Dhamar, 100 kilometers south of the capital; several locations in Hajjah Governorate in the country's northwest corner; and a training facility in al-Hudaydah on Yemen's west coast. Casualties, including civilians, were reported in the Dhamar and Hajjah offensives, the officials said.
    What is happening in Yemen?
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    Houthi rebels also reportedly clashed with resistance forces in Abyan, Taiz, Mareb, Jawf and briefly in Aden, the officials said.
    The death toll hit 1,037 civilians Friday, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The death toll includes 234 children. Also, the office reported, at least 2,453 civilians have been injured in clashes.
    Prisons and rehabilitation facilities have been hit in strikes as well, OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said in a news release.
    "Many such facilities have been affected by airstrikes or by armed clashes. More than 4,000 inmates have fled while several have been killed or injured," she said.
    Also plaguing the already-impoverished country as a result of the strikes are fuel and food shortages, as well as a lack of access to electricity, clean water and proper sanitation. There have also been reports of outbreaks of diseases such as scabies, caused by mites, and mycosis, caused by fungus, the U.N. office reported.
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all sides to extend a humanitarian pause that ended last weekend and asked the parties involved to engage in upcoming talks in Geneva, set to begin Thursday.
    In what some media outlets are billing as a "snub," President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi sent a letter to U.N. Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, apologizing that he will not be able to attend the Geneva talks, according to two aides accompanying Hadi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.