Saudi Arabian air defences shoot down 'booby trapped' Houthi drone

Military officials say rebels are targeting civilians in built-up areas

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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Joint Arab Coalition Forces intercepted and destroyed an explosive drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia towards Saudi Arabia on Wednesday morning, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki said the "booby-trapped" drone was "launched systematically and deliberately by the terrorist Houthi militia to target civilians and civilian objects in Khamis Mushait city, [in the] south of Saudi Arabia".

Col Al Malki said the attacks on the kingdom were war crimes.

"The Joint Forces will continue to implement all necessary operational procedures to safeguard civilians and civilian objects in accordance with the customary international humanitarian law," he said.

On Tuesday, air defences intercepted another Houthi drone, headed towards Abha airport.

The Saudi-led coalition since 2015 has intercepted more than 345 ballistic missiles and 515 Houthi drones aimed at the country.

Several Houthi attacks on Abha Airport in June 2019 wounded dozens and killed a Syrian citizen.

The busy regional commercial airport is popular with tourists visiting the south of the country.

The attack came just hours after the US issued a warning to the Houthi rebels to cease an offensive on the city of Marib, a stronghold of the internationally-backed government.

State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the Houthis to halt the Marib attack, cease all military operations, end cross-border strikes on Saudi Arabia and participate in a UN-led peace process.

"The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen," Mr Price said in a statement.