Saudis Say They Intercepted Houthi Missile Assault Over Capital

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Saudi Arabia said Saturday it had intercepted a missile strike on its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province.

The Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that fought in Yemen’s year-long war said the Iran-allied Houthis fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh and three booby drones at Jizan province. Initially, no loss or damage was reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.

The attack comes amid soaring tensions in the Middle East and just a day after a mysterious explosion that struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. This explosion renewed concerns about ship safety in the strategic waterways, where several suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers were reported in 2019.

State-owned Al-Ekhbariya television broadcast footage of explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos showing some residents screeching as they saw the fiery explosion pierce the night sky. These appeared to be the Kingdom’s US Patriot missile batteries that intercepted the ballistic missile.

The US embassy in Riyadh warned the Americans and asked them to “remain vigilant in the event of further future attacks.” Flight tracking websites showed a number of flights intended to land at Riyadh International Airport that were diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack.

As the war in Yemen continues, Houthi rocket and drone strikes on the kingdom are commonplace and rarely cause damage. Earlier this month, the Houthis hit an empty passenger plane at the southwestern airport of Abha in Saudi Arabia with a bomb-laden drone and set it on fire.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been criticized internationally for air strikes in Yemen that killed hundreds of civilians and achieved non-military objectives including schools, hospitals and wedding parties.

President Biden announced earlier this month that he would end US support for the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. However, he stressed that the United States would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks.

The Houthis overran the capital of Yemen and much of the north of the country in 2014, forcing the government into exile and, months later, prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign.

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