Barrage of Houthi attacks foiled by Saudi Arabia

Yemeni rebels launched six armed drones towards the kingdom on Friday

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Saudi Arabia intercepted eight attacks on civilian targets in the kingdom in 24 hours, including six armed drones launched on Friday by Yemen's Houthi rebels.

On Saturday morning, a further two bomb-laden UAVs launched towards Khamis Mushait and Jazan were also destroyed.

A child was among two people reported injured in Khamis Mushait and Ahad Rafidah governorates, the Civil Defence authority reported.

In the first attack on Thursday morning a drone was launched towards the city of Khamis Mushait near the border with Yemen, according to the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels.

A ballistic missile launched later on Thursday towards the city of Jazan, about 240 kilometres away, was destroyed by the Royal Saudi Air force, coalition spokesman Brig Gen Turki Al Malki said.

“The terrorist Houthi militia is purposely escalating the deliberate, hostile, terrorist targeting of civilians and civilian objects using ballistic missiles and bomb-laden UAVs,” Gen Al Malki said. “These terrorist acts amount to war crimes.”

The barrage continued on Friday when joint coalition forces intercepted and destroyed another six explosive drones sent towards Khamis Mushait.

"The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition will continue to implement all necessary operational procedures to safeguard civilians and civilian objects in accordance with the customary international humanitarian law,” Gen Al Malki said.

Two civilians, one of them a child, were injured by falling shrapnel on Friday in Saudi Arabia, the country’s Civil Defence authority tweeted.

The drone launches are becoming an almost daily occurrence in the kingdom, with most intercepted before they reach their targets.

The Jazan interception came just days after a Houthi rocket attack wounded five civilians and damaged buildings and vehicles in the city.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on two Houthi military leaders.

Saudi Arabian air defence assets 

Despite the proliferation of the GPS-guided Houthi drones, which most analysts say are based on Iranian designs like the Ababil — using propeller propulsion to conserve fuel and travel long distances — Saudi Arabian air defences are quickly adapting to the threat.

Due to their small size, the drones have a small “radar signature”, but PAC-3 Patriot missiles have no trouble intercepting the devices, while Saudi Air Force F-15 fighter jets can also easily track them down. The drones are based on technology originally developed for cheap target practice aircraft, so they stand little chance against the latest air defence missiles.

Saudi Arabian PAC-3 Patriot missiles supplied by the US and operated by the Saudis have a maximum speed of 5,000 kilometres an hour – four times the speed of sound. This makes them ideal for launching against Houthi ballistic missiles, which are fewer in number than the drones but are much faster targets.

Once detected, Houthi drones have no chance of evading Patriot interceptors, supplied as part of a $15 billion missile defence system deal finalised in 2018 between Saudi Arabia and US firm Lockheed Martin. Houthi ballistic missiles, based on 1960s Soviet Scud missiles, are a harder target, but the Patriot has had relative success shooting them down in recent weeks.

According to the Washington-based consultancy firm Gulf State Analytics, Saudi Arabia has shot down over 300 ballistic missiles and more than 340 Houthi drones using the Patriot PAC-3 missiles.