Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, with a ballistic missile on Tuesday, specifically targeting the Saudi royal palace.
Saudi media reports that air defenses were able to intercept the missile. Reporters in Riyadh heard an explosion and saw a “plume of smoke” in the sky above the city.
A meeting to prepare for the release of the Saudi budget was reportedly underway in the Yamamah palace at the time of the attack. King Salman bin Abdulaziz was scheduled to announce the budget from the palace later today.
Debris from the intercepted missile fell on residential areas of Riyadh, but no casualties have been reported.
A spokesman for the Saudi military identified the intercepted weapon as a Volcano H-2 ballistic missile. The Houthis themselves also used that designation for the missile when announcing their attack on Riyadh. The Houthis reportedly stated that the royal palace was the target of their attack.
— عادل بن عارف (@abumiftah) December 19, 2017
The Volcano H-2, also known as the Burkan H-2, is a variant on Iran’s Scud missile design that was first deployed in July of this year in attacks on Saudi oil refineries.
The United States recently presented hard evidence that Iran has violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions by supplying the Houthis with advanced weapons, including ballistic missiles.
Today’s attack was the third Houthi ballistic missile strike on Saudi Arabia in the past two months. One of the previous attacks targeted the King Khalid airport in Riyadh and would have caused hundreds or thousands of civilian casualties if the missile had struck its target.
The airport attack triggered tougher Saudi sanctions against Yemen and a tighter blockade to keep Iranian weapons out of the country, prompting complaints that humanitarian aid could not reach sick and starving civilians in Yemen. The United Nations just released a report counting 136 civilian casualties in Yemen from airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in December.