One killed as Yemen rebels fire missile barrage at Saudi Arabia

One killed as Yemen rebels fire missile barrage at Saudi Arabia

Video appears to show interceptor crashing in residential area of Riyadh as Houthis fire seven missiles at kingdom; rockets show links to Iran

Illustrative screen capture from a video claiming to show Saudi missile interceptors shooting down a missile over Riyadh on March 26, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Illustrative screen capture from a video claiming to show Saudi missile interceptors shooting down a missile over Riyadh on March 26, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Yemen’s Shiite rebels fired a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting Saudi Arabia late Sunday on the third anniversary of a kingdom-led war in Yemen, with fragments of one missile over Riyadh killing one person and wounding two.

The casualties were the first in Saudi Arabia’s capital since the Saudi-led war in Yemen began in March 2015, though previous rockets fired by the Yemeni rebels have caused deaths in other parts of the kingdom.

A report by the state-run Saudi Press Agency early Monday said the three casualties had been hit by falling shrapnel after a missile was intercepted. All three were Egyptian nationals.

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed their target was Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, with residents reporting loud explosions and bright flashes in the sky shortly before midnight. They also said they fired missiles at other Saudi airports.

Video appeared to show one missile interceptor misfiring and exploding in a residential area of Riyadh.

The Saudi military said it intercepted seven ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis at the kingdom, three of them targeting Riyadh, two targeting Jazan and one apiece targeting Najran and Khamis Mushait.

The Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al Arabiya aired footage that it said showed Patriot missile batteries firing at the incoming Houthi missiles. Online videos showed what appeared to be a missile fuselage lying on a street in Riyadh.

Al Masirah, a Houthi-run satellite news channel, identified some of the missiles fired as the Burkan, or Volcano, missile.

The United Nations, Western countries and the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen all say the Burkan mirrors characteristics of an Iranian Qiam ballistic missile. They say that suggests Tehran either shared the technology or smuggled disassembled missiles to the Houthis, who then rebuilt them.

Iran long has denied supplying arms to the Houthis, though a growing body of evidence contradicts their claim.

The attack is the latest in a series of Houthi missiles fired at Riyadh since November, all of which Saudi forces say they intercepted.

The first attack, which also targeted Riyadh international airport on November 4, triggered the tightening of a longstanding Saudi-led blockade of Yemen — already on the verge of famine.

Another attack on December 19 targeted Riyadh’s Yamamah palace, the official residence of King Salman.

Saudi Arabia has accused its arch foe Iran of supplying the missile to the rebels, a charge Tehran strongly denied.

The Houthis expelled pro-government forces from the capital in September 2014 and went on to seize swathes of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

This prompted a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia to intervene in Yemen on March 26, 2015, to help the government push back the Shiite rebels.

Shiite Houthi rebels and their supporters watch on a big screen a live speech given by leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, as they attend a rally outside al-Saleh mosque in the capital Sanaa on the occasion of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday on November 30, 2017.(AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS)

Since Saudi Arabia entered the war, around 10,000 people have been killed and 53,000 wounded in Yemen, triggering what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to Washington to pursue “urgent efforts” to end Yemen’s wrenching conflict.

The United Nations says living conditions in the war-scarred country have reached catastrophic levels and that 8.4 million people face imminent famine.

Saudi Arabia and its military allies — armed by the US and Britain — could stand guilty of war crimes, Amnesty International said on Friday.

Numerous rounds of UN-sponsored peace talks have failed to stem the bloodshed in Yemen.

The Houthis are planning a huge rally in Sanaa on Monday to mark the war’s third anniversary.

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