Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi missiles and drone aimed at Riyadh

Attacks come as ceasefire deal is agreed upon by the government and STC

epa07851144 Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik addresses a press conference on the attack against Aramco oil facility, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 18 September 2019. According to reports, Al-Malik said 25 Iranian-made drones came from the north to attack the facility, and showed what the Saudis said were the remains of cruise missiles and drones used in an attack.  EPA/STRINGER
Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that it intercepted missiles and drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that targeted its capital Riyadh.

The kingdom is leading a coalition that is fighting the rebels on behalf of Yemen's government after the Houthis seized the capital in 2014.

"Coalition forces managed to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile launched by the terrorist Houthi militia from Sanaa towards Riyadh in a deliberate hostile operation," coalition spokesman Turki Al Malki said.

The coalition shot down "eight booby-trapped unmanned aircraft to target civilian objects and civilians", as well as "three ballistic missiles from Saada governorate towards the kingdom", he said.

The UK condemned the attacks on the kingdom and urged the Houthis to prove they are serious about finding peace.

“I condemn these latest attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Houthis, and their continued offensives within Yemen which cast further doubt on their claims to want peace," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

“With over a million Yemenis believed to have contracted Coronavirus, it is more vital than ever that the Houthis cease their hostilities and allow the UN-led humanitarian response to get on with saving Yemeni lives."

Saudi Arabia has been the target of dozens of Houthi attacks, with the rebels using ballistic missiles or drones to target Saudi Arabia's most populous cities and towns.

Yemen plunged into war in 2015 after the Iranian-backed Houthis forcibly took over the capital of Sanaa in 2014.

The latest attacks follow the announcement of a ceasefire agreement between Yemen’s government and the Southern Transitional Council after months of infighting.

Both sides agreed on a ceasefire in Abyan province, de-escalation of tensions in other regions and the start of talks on putting the Riyadh Agreement into effect, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber said.

Last year, Saudi Arabia brokered a peace deal between the two sides after government forces clashed with those allied to the STC in and around Aden, the interim seat of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi's administration.

But the STC declared a plan to move towards self-rule in April, accusing the government of delaying a Cabinet shake-up and failing to put into effect a new power-sharing arrangement agreed to in Riyadh.

"We welcome the Coalition call for a ceasefire in the province of Abyan and de-escalation in the other provinces in the south" Nazar Haitham, STC spokesman, told The National.

“We have always affirmed the importance of the Riyadh agreement and its full and comprehensive implementation."

The STC appreciates the role that Saudi Arabia has played in ensuring stability and security in southern Yemen, he said.

The standoff between the STC and government forces is expected to end soon, a STC official said.

"The ceasefire is a new opportunity to end the current standoff and reunite efforts to work together alongside the coalition to restore peace and stability to the liberated provinces and collaboratively engage in the battle against the Iranian agenda in Yemen," he told The National.

The coalition said it would send monitors into Abyan to ensure the ceasefire was upheld.

It also called on Yemen's political, social and media entities to support the two sides in putting the terms of the Riyadh Agreement into effect.

The fallout from the conflict has led Yemen to be labelled as one of the world’s most desperate humanitarian disasters by the UN.