The political leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebels has been killed in Saudi-led air strikes on Hudaida province, the group has said.
The Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV network reported on Monday that Saleh al-Sammad, the president of the Supreme Political Council that runs Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other rebel-held areas, was killed on Thursday.
The group said it had elected Mahdi al-Mashat as Sammad’s successor.
In a televised address later on Monday, the Houthis’ leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said that, overall, seven people were killed in Thursday’s air raids.
“This crime will not break the will of our people and state,” he added.
“Aggression forces, mainly, America and Saudi Arabia, bear the legal responsibility for Sammad’s death,” al-Houthi continued.
“This crime will not pass without accountability.”
There was no immediate comment by the Saudi-led coalition.
Traditionally based in Yemen’s northwest, the Houthis overran much of the country, including Sanaa, in 2014, citing anger with the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In March 2015, a coalition of Arab countries assembled by Saudi Arabia launched a massive bombing campaign aimed at rolling back the rebels’ advances.
Since then, the Saudis have carried out more than 16,000 air raids, resulting in mass civilian casualties with weddings, hospitals and funerals targeted.
Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, said al-Sammad’s death was a “very significant” development.
“He was the acting president in the Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, so this is considered the biggest blow for the Houthis, politically, since the war started,” he told Al Jazeera.
Almasmari noted that the location of the incident was also important.
“Hudaida is considered the most secure place for the Houthis, where they have all their intelligence,” he said.
“This is a big backlash for the Houthis, security-wise as well,” he added.
“It’s not a secret that Hudeida is much more secured than even Sanaa itself, so for him to be killed in Hudeidah, under all the extreme security measures that they go through there, [raises questions] whether they are infiltrated in Hudeida province itself or within the intelligence apparatus in general.”
Almasmari also said it was not surprising that al-Sammad’s had been replaced by al-Mashat, whom he described as “a very influential figure within the movement”.