Saudi Arabia says it intercepts missile attack over capital

·2 min read

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia said Saturday it intercepted a missile attack over its capital and bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province, the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on Yemen’s rebel Houthis.

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen’s years-long war announced the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan, with a number of other drones being monitored. No casualties or damages were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.

The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019.

The state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV posted footage of what appeared to be explosions in the air over Riyadh. Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast streaking the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom’s U.S. Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile.

Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in “a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.”

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to “stay alert in case of additional future attacks.”

As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. U.S. President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks.

The Houthis have held Yemen’s capital and the country's north, where the majority of the population lives, since September 2014. Months later, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a war to dislodge the rebels and restore Yemen's internationally recognized government.

Isabel Debre, The Associated Press