Published 21:05 ET 27 February 2021 |
Dubai, United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that it was intercepting a missile attack on its capital and bombing drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne attacks it has blamed on Yemen̵
The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s years-long war announced that the Iranian ally Houthier had launched a ballistic missile against Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones against the province of Jizan, with a fourth against another southwestern city and other drones , which was monitored. No injuries or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.
The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion hit an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. This explosion renewed concern over ship safety in the strategic waterways that witnessed a wave of suspicions of Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019.
The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV broadcast footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos in which some showed residents screaming as they watched the burning explosion pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the Kingdom’s Patriot missile batteries that intercepted the ballistic missile.
Colonel Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying “in a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.”
The U.S. embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, urging them to “be alert in case of further future attacks.” Flight tracking sites showed that a number of planes scheduled to land at Riyadh International Airport were diverted or delayed in the hour following the attack.
A spokesman for the civil defense, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said that scattered debris resulted in property damage to a house, although no one was injured, the state Saudi Press Agency reported.
As the Yemeni war continues to grind, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown in popularity and rarely cause damage. Earlier this month, the Houthis hit an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone that caused it to catch fire.
Meanwhile, the Saudi coalition has faced widespread international criticism of airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. President Joe Biden announced this month that he was ending US support for the Saudi war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the United States will continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from outside attacks.
The Houthis overran Yemen’s capital and much of the country’s north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign.
Associated Press author Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.
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