Saudi Arabia intercepts missiles, drones fired from Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi authorities said they intercepted three ballistic missiles fired from neighbouring Yemen that had targeted civilians in the Eastern Province as well as the southern cities of Najran and Jazan.

Debris from the interception scattered across the eastern city Dammam, injuring two children and damaging 14 homes, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence.

The severity of the injuries was unclear.

“Saudi Air Defence has intercepted and destroyed (3) ballistic missiles and (3) bomb-laden drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia,” spokesperson Brigadier General Turki Al-Malki said in a statement, calling it “brutal, irresponsible behavior” by the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels told state-run television it would take “strict measures” to protect civilians.

While there was no immediate comment from the Huthis, the Iran-allied insurgents have repeatedly targeted the kingdom in cross-border attacks.

In August, the rebels escalated operations using unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles, and Saturday’s interception comes four days after a drone hit Abha International Airport in the south, wounding eight people and damaging a civilian plane.

It also comes a few hours before Hans Grundberg, the UN’s new envoy for Yemen, officially assumes his duties Sunday.

In Dammam, Twitter users reported hearing a loud explosion.

Eastern Saudi Arabia is home to major oil infrastructure.

A previous attack in September 2019 temporarily halted half of the kingdom’s oil production.

Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen war on behalf of the internationally recognised government in 2015, shortly after the Huthis seized the capital of Sanaa.

Yemen’s grinding conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, resulting in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

While the UN is pushing for an end to the war, the Huthis have demanded the reopening of Sanaa airport, closed under a Saudi blockade since 2016, before any ceasefire or negotiations.