Saudi Intercepts Houthi Missile Fired at Its Royal Court in Riyadh
In attack which threatened to pronounce the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi-led coalition said the kingdom’s air defences shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Houthi group towards Riyadh on 19 December. No casualties were reported, and any potential damage was averted.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement said it had aimed the missile at the Saudi royal court at al-Yamama palace, where a meeting of Saudi leaders was under way. It described the attack as a new chapter in the conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition said the missile, the latest of several fired towards Riyadh, had been directed at residential areas and there had been no damage.
Quoting a statement from the coalition, Saudi state news agency SPA said Iranian-made missiles were a threat to regional and international security. It accused the Houthis of using humanitarian entry points into Yemen to smuggle in missiles from Saudi Arabia's regional arch-foe Iran.
Saudi palaces, military and oil facilities are within range of such missiles, the Houthis said in a statement carried by the group's Al-Masirah television.
The US State Department has condemned the missile attack and called on Iran to stop arming the Houthis.
At the United Nations, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Houthi missile strike "bears all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons."
Haley said she was exploring, with some UN Security Council colleagues, several options for pressuring Iran to "adjust their behavior."
What Is This Proxy War?
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in struggle for influence in the Middle East. The conflict in Saudi Arabia's backyard Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced over 2 million.
The Houthis, for their part, have fired several missiles at the kingdom, but have not caused any serious damage.
The attack came as the Houthis marked 1,000 days since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations in Yemen in March 2015 after the Iran-aligned group drove Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.
The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia and part of its coalition, said the latest Houthi attack underscored the need to keep the military campaign in Yemen going.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has described what Riyadh says is Iran's supply of rockets to the Houthis as "direct military aggression" that could be an act of war.
Iran has denied supplying such weaponry to the Houthis, who have taken over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country during its civil war.
Saudi Arabia said on 4 November it had intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh's King Khalid Airport, an attack that led the coalition to close Yemeni ports.
On 30 November, Saudi Arabia shot down another missile near its southwestern city of Khamis Mushait.
Last week, the United States presented for the first time pieces of what it said were Iranian weapons supplied to the Houthis, describing them as conclusive evidence that Tehran was violating UN resolutions.
The arms included charred remnants of what the Pentagon said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile fired from Yemen in the 4 November attack, as well as a drone and an anti-tank weapon recovered in Yemen by the Saudis.
(With inputs from Reuters)