Saudis Intercept Seven Missiles Fired by Iran-Backed Rebels in Yemen

"Saudi air defence forces intercept a missile northeast of Riyadh," Saudi state news channel Al-Akhbariya said
AFP/File SAUL LOEB

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen fired a salvo of seven ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, targeting the cities of Najran, Jizan, Khamis Mushait, and the capital of Riyadh.

Saudi defense forces say they were able to intercept all seven missiles. One fatality and two injuries were reported as debris from an intercepted missile fell on a home in Riyadh and killed an Egyptian resident. The death marked the first fatality on Saudi soil from a Houthi attack.

Some reports say that a few of the Patriot interceptor missiles failed and either detonated in midair or fell into residential areas during the attack.

Spectacular video of the intercepts appeared online Sunday night:

The Associated Press (AP) reported a statement from the Houthis that Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport was one of their targets. The airport was previously targeted by a Houthi ballistic missile attack in November.

“The attack likely will spark new criticism of Iran’s role in the conflict as well, as the Houthis identified some of the missiles fired as a type that the United Nations and the West say comes from Tehran,” the AP added.

Specifically, a Houthi-run news network identified some of the weapons used in Sunday’s attack as Burkan or Volcano missiles, which are copies of Iran’s Qiam ballistic missile. Iran denies supplying the Houthis with weapons, despite substantial evidence implicating Tehran in missile proliferation. The latest evidence, reported by watchdog group Conflict Armament Research on Monday, is the discovery in Yemen of roadside bombs disguised to look like rocks, a tactic employed by Iranian clients such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite insurgents in Iraq.

“This hostile action and indiscriminate action by the Iran-backed Houthi group proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime in supporting the armed Houthi group with qualitative capabilities. The firing of multiple ballistic missiles towards cities contravenes international human laws and is a serious development,” a spokesman for the Saudi military coalition said of the missile attack on Sunday.

The missile launch coincided with the third anniversary of the war in Yemen, which the Houthis commemorated with a massive rally in the capital city of Sanaa on Monday. AFP describes the festivities:

After the missile attacks that resulted in the first reported death in the Saudi capital, Sanaa’s Sabaeen Square on Monday was a sea of Yemeni flags as rebel authorities ordered all schools and government offices shut for the anniversary.

Houthi supporters carried portraits of rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Houthi and speakers blasted out a fiery speech by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement allied with the insurgents, praising the “steadfastness” of the Yemeni people.

War songs, poems and speeches condemning the United States, the main arms supplier for the Saudi-led coalition, echoed across the square.

On a stage, male dancers in traditional clothing with rifles slung over their shoulders performed for the crowd.

Abdulmalik al-Houthi was quoted by news agencies in Yemen vowing to remain defiant against “Saudi-American aggression.”

Top Houthi leaders promised that more missile attacks would be forthcoming unless Saudi Arabia withdraws its coalition from Yemen.

“We praise the successful advance of military capabilities,” political council chief Saleh al-Samad told the crowd in Sanaa on Monday. “If they want peace, as we have said to them before, stop your air strikes and we will stop our missiles. If you continue your air strikes we have a right to defend ourselves by all means available.”

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