Saudi air defences intercept 17 Houthi armed drones in one day

Attacks came after Saudi-led coalition halted operations in Yemen to help with peace efforts

Saudi Arabia's air defences destroyed 17 Houthi drones fired by the Yemeni rebels at the kingdom on Saturday.

A spokesman from the Iran-backed rebel group said in a tweet on Saturday that a drone was launched towards a military base in Khamis Mushait – a south-western Saudi city about 100 kilometres from the Yemen border.

The coalition said two more drones were fired at Khamis Mushait, while eight were sent to other locations in the south, one being the city of Najran, state TV reported.

Defence teams shot down all the drones.

Khamis Mushait has been repeatedly targeted by the Iran-backed Houthis during more than six years of war in Yemen.

Yemeni rebels attacked Saudi cities almost daily, injuring civilians and damaging homes, shops and cars.

The Houthis hit a Saudi school in Asir province with a bomb-laden drone last week. Although there were no casualties, there was heavy damage to the building's roof, images released by the Saudi Press Agency showed.

On Saturday, the UAE denounced the day's attacks on Saudi Arabia and “attempts by the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia to target civilians and civil objects in a systematic and deliberate manner in Khamis Mushait.”

"The security of the United Arab Emirates and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is indivisible, and any threat facing the kingdom is considered a threat to the UAE's security and stability," the Foreign Ministry said.

The coalition paused its Yemen military operations last week to help peace efforts – the second time the Saudi-led force has halted offensives since the pandemic struck last year.

Gulf Co-operation Council states supported this effort by urging the Houthis to co-operate with a Saudi peace initiative for Yemen.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths has again been in the region meeting parties in an effort to build momentum for peace talks. However, last week he offered a bleak picture of the prospects of a halt to the fighting.

In an address to the UN Security Council last Tuesday, Mr Griffiths said he was unable to bridge the differences between the internationally recognised government and the Houthi rebels.

Despite efforts to persuade the sides to discuss an end to the fighting, battles between government forces and the Houthi rebels have been raging around Marib – the last government-held province in the north and now home to millions of displaced who fled fighting elsewhere.

At least 47 fighters were killed in recent days, including at least 16 from pro-government forces, military sources told AFP on Saturday.

The Houthis are trying to take the city of Marib and the oil fields surrounding it.

The Houthis "launched attacks on various fronts, in an attempt to advance, but they were mostly repelled", a government military official told AFP.

A military coalition led by Riyadh intervened in Yemen in March 2015 at the request of the government after the Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa, in a coup and arrested members of the administration.

Yemeni fighters in Marib - in pictures