Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Najran airport

Yemen government accuses rebels of breaking international law

Spokesman of the Saudi-led military coalition Colonel Turki Al-Maliki talks during an interview with AFP in the capital Riyadh, on May 21, 2019. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said two missiles were shot down between Jeddah and Taiz districts of Mecca province but did not elaborate on the suspected target or who fired them. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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Saudi Arabia intercepted a Houthi drone on Thursday launched towards the city of Najran near the Yemeni border.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have increased missile and drone attacks on the kingdom in the past 10 days as the UN attempts to salvage a peace deal brokered in Sweden.

“The Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces intercepted a drone laden with explosives targeting the Najran regional airport – which is used by thousands of civilians daily – without any regard for international humanitarian law,” Arab Coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki said.

“Houthi militias are deliberately targeting citizens of all nationalities."

The attack is the third Houthi attempt to strike Najran in a week, the Saudi press agency said. Col Al Malki warned the rebels of a response.

Last week, the Houthis took full responsibility for armed drone strikes on oil centres in Saudi Arabia and on Sunday said they would attack 300  military targets in the kingdom, the UAE and Yemen.

There has been increasing tension between Iran and Arab states that are allied with the US, and  as a UN-brokered peace deal is being carried out in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah.

A UN-brokered peace deal, reached in Stockholm last December, includes a ceasefire and a troop withdrawal from the key Red Sea ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa.

Yemen’s Minister of Information, Muammar Al Eryani, accused the Houthis of breaching international laws.

“The Houthis have been using Yemen to fire missiles into neighbouring countries,” Mr Al Eryani said. “They have been responsible for firing on the Saudi Aramco tanker, which raised oil prices and created economic instability in the area.”

He urged the international community to exert “full pressure” on Iran to sustain peace in his country.

The war erupted after the Houthi drove the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi from the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“The Houthis have proved to the world their lack of seriousness when it comes to attaining peace,” Mr Al Eryani told the all-party parliamentary group on Yemen in London.

Since 2004, the Iranian-backed militias have shown no serious commitment towards any peace deal, he said.

“The Houthis continue to practise their sectarian polices by obstructing the Stockholm agreement and escalating military violence on the people of Yemen and neighbouring states,” Mr Al Eryani said.

Speaking on National Yemen Day in the House of Commons, Mr Al Iryani praised the role of the international community and humanitarian groups in “exposing the Houthi practices against the people of Yemen”.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said "there is a long way to go before the conflict ends".

"There is now a profound commitment on both sides to end the conflict and the frustrations over Hodeidah may be coming to an end. The United Kingdom has a particular responsibility as a ‘penholder’ [pushing forward motions] at the UN and we recognise that,” Mr Hunt told members of the Yemeni parliamentary group.

The UN said on Wednesday that it has brought in the world’s largest relief operation in Yemen, reaching 10 million people a month, in part due to aid from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s assistance has prevented the situation from deteriorating, Mark Lowcock, the UN’s aid chief said.