Saudi Arabia says two Yemen rebel missiles intercepted over Riyadh
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Saudi Arabia says two Yemen rebel missiles intercepted over Riyadh

4 loud explosions heard in capital as Iran-backed Houthi rebels claim missiles struck defense ministry there

Illustrative: German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation, in Chania, Greece, November 8, 2017. (Sebastian Apel/US Department of Defense, via AP)
Illustrative: German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation, in Chania, Greece, November 8, 2017. (Sebastian Apel/US Department of Defense, via AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi air defenses intercepted two missiles over Riyadh Sunday that had been fired from rebel-held territory in neighboring Yemen, state media said, after multiple explosions were heard in the city.

“Two ballistic missiles fired by Houthi rebels were intercepted over Riyadh,” state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said, without specifying whether there were any casualties or damage.

An AFP journalist heard at least four loud explosions in the Saudi capital, which has been targeted by Houthi missiles in the past.

The Iran-backed rebels’ news outlet Al-Masirah said missiles had struck the Saudi defense ministry and other sites in the capital.

Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for a Riyadh-led military coalition fighting the rebels, denied that the defense ministry had been hit.

The insurgents, who have ramped up missile attacks against Saudi Arabia in recent months, regularly claim successful strikes.

The kingdom usually says it has intercepted the missiles.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other allies intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to push back the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government to power after the Houthis ousted it from swathes of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Saudi forces have previously shot down Houthi missiles with Patriot surface-to-air missiles purchased from the United States.

The latest strikes come as Yemeni pro-government forces are locked in heavy battles with Houthi rebels as they press an offensive backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to retake the key aid hub of Hodeida.

Saudi Arabia last month tested a new siren system for Riyadh and the oil-rich Eastern Province, in a sign of the growing threat posed by the rebels’ arms.

Riyadh accuses its regional rival Tehran of supplying the Huthis with ballistic missiles, a charge Iran denies.

The latest attack came as Saudi women celebrated taking the wheel for the first time in decades, after the kingdom overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists.

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