89.1 WEMU

Saudis Say They Downed A Houthi-Fired Missile Bound For Riyadh

Dec 19, 2017
Originally published on December 19, 2017 2:35 pm

Saudi authorities said Tuesday they intercepted a missile fired from Yemen at the kingdom's capital, Riyadh. Videos on social media purport to show the missile, which Houthi rebels say they had aimed at a Saudi royal palace, exploding in a white cloud over the city's skyline.

Citing a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in the region, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reports "the missile was indiscriminately launched towards Riyadh to target the civilian and populated areas. " The spokesman added "that the missile was intercepted by Patriot, south of Riyadh, without any damage or loss of life."

A spokesman for Yemen's Houthi rebels, which have been locked in a years-long war with the Saudi coalition, identified the missile as a Volcano H-2.

The incident is the second time in recent months that Saudis said they intercepted a missile aimed at Riyadh. Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused the Houthis — and the Shiite group's backers in Iran — of committing an act of "direct military aggression" by firing a missile at an international airport near the capital.

In retaliation, the Saudi coalition — which comprises the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni countries in the Gulf region — enacted a blockade on Yemen that lasted for weeks. The closure of Yemeni ports of entry prompted outrage from international aid groups, which have been struggling in Yemen to combat what several United Nations agencies call "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."

Between a cholera outbreak with more than 900,000 suspected cases, a food crisis that has more than 8 million Yemenis in near famine, and a deadlocked war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since it escalated in 2015, the country continues to eddy in chaos and despair — even after the Saudis began to ease the blockade late last month.

Over a 10-day span this month alone, the office of the U.N. high commissioner on human rights says 136 civilians and noncombatants were killed in airstrikes on several different areas of the country.

"We urge all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution," the office said in a statement released Tuesday, noting recently reported violations on all sides of the violence. "They should take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, the impact of violence on civilians."

The U.S., which has offered the Saudis logistical and targeting support in their bombing campaign, has firmly come out in condemnation of Iran's involvement in the war. As The Washington Post reports, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley held a news conference last week presenting what she called "undeniable" proof of Iran's role in the violence.

Both Iran and the Houthis deny the allegation.

But the rebels — who control much of Yemen's northwest including the capital, Sanaa, and areas bordering Saudi Arabia — have no intention of ending their own missile strikes against the coalition.

"Our long hand will reach other places, God willing," rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in a televised address, according to the New York Times. "As long as you continue to target Sanaa, we will strike Riyadh and Abu Dhabi."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.