Saudi forces intercept missile over Riyadh

Three explosions heard in the capital on Saturday

FILE PHOTO: General view shows the cars on the street, after curfew lifted, which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
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The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said early on Sunday that the kingdom's air defences intercepted two ballistic missiles on Saturday night launched by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group towards Riyadh and the city of Jizan, Saudi state news agency (SPA) said citing the coalition's spokesman.

It followed reports of three explosions in the capital.

The coalition's spokesman, Colonel Turki Al Malki, said in a statement that no fatalities had been recorded so far.

He said destroying the missiles caused some shrapnel to fall on residential neighbourhoods in the two cities, SPA reported.

The spokesman added that firing missiles at this time by the Houthis and Iranian Revolutionary Guards showed the real threat the group and Iranian regime supporting it pose, adding that this escalation does not reflect the group's announcement that it is welcoming a ceasefire.

The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned the attack and reiterated the Secretary General Antonio Guterres's call for an "immediate cessation of hostilities to build a conducive environment for achieving a nation-wide ceasefire."

Mr Griffiths reiterated that "indiscriminate attacks affecting civilians or civilian targets, whether inside or outside of Yemen, are unlawful and reprehensible," said a statement by his office.

The UK's Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, urged the Houthis to "cease such provocations and to engage and constructively with the UN-led peace process."

"I am appalled that the Houthis have increased missile attacks on Saudi Arabia following the calls made by UN Secretary General," Mr Cleverly said.

Members of Yemen's internationally recognised government rejected the attacks.

"This is a continuation of the grave violations of international humanitarian laws, when will the international community wake up?" Yemen's Human Rights Minister, Mohammed Askar, said on Twitter.

The country's Information Minister, Mohammer El Eryani, said the attacks portray the "continued flow of Iranian weapons to the Houthis and its insistence to act as an Iranian tool of destruction."

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the targeting of civilian sites in the kingdom "is the logic of those seeking to continue the war".

The rebels are "looking for media attention as the world attempts to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic," Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

The assault comes after all parties in Yemen's long conflict offered support on Thursday for the United Nations' call for a ceasefire to protect civilians from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni government and the rebels all welcomed an appeal from Mr Guterres for an "immediate global ceasefire" to help avert disaster for vulnerable people in conflict zones.