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Middle East

Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi missile fired toward Riyadh, no reported casualties

Houthi militants

Saudi air defences shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi group towards Riyadh on Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition said, in an attack that could escalate a proxy war between the kingdom and Iran.

There were no reports of casualties or damage. In contrast, a U.N. human rights spokesman said coalition air strikes had killed at least 136 non-combatants in wartorn Yemen since December 6.

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.

“Coalition forces confirm intercepting an Iranian-Houthi missile targeting (the) south of Riyadh. There are no reported casualties at this time,” the government-run Center for International Communication wrote on its Twitter account.

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.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States was aware of the reported missile attack.

“We are working closely with our Saudi partners … to ensure that our Saudi partners have the resources they need to defend their territory against indiscriminate attacks against civilian-inhabited areas,” he said.

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 two 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 enemies had their own mirage calculations … but over 1,000 days, there has been this great steadfastness,” said Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, a Houthi leader, in a speech on the group’s Al-Masirah TV.


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