Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels on February 28 claimed missile and drone strikes that targeted neighbouring Saudi Arabia overnight and threatened more attacks, as fighting in the grinding civil war escalates.
Huthi fighters have intensified operations against the kingdom as air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition pound rebel positions in the north of Yemen, in a bid to stop their offensive to seize the government’s last northern stronghold of Marib.
Years of war have already pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia – which has been backing the Yemeni government against the rebels since 2015 – on February 27 said it thwarted a Huthi missile that targeted Riyadh.
“The operation was carried out with a ballistic missile and 15 drones . . . targeting sensitive areas in the enemy’s capital of Riyadh,” said Huthi spokesman Yahya al-Saree, according to the rebels’ Al Masirah TV channel.
“Our operations will continue and will expand as long as the aggression and siege on our country continues.”
Fragments of the missile scattered over several Riyadh neighbourhoods, damaging at least one home but no casualties were reported, Saudi state-run Al Ekhbariya television said.
AFP correspondents in the Saudi capital reported hearing multiple loud explosions, with state television footage showing the night sky light up with a bright flash.
Separately, the coalition said it had intercepted six Huthi drones targeting the kingdom, including the southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jizan.
Saree on February 28 claimed those attacks as well, warning residents in the region to “stay clear from all military airports and sites”.
The US on February 28 said it “strongly condemns” the Huthi attacks on population centres in Saudi Arabia.
“These attacks threaten not only innocent civilians but also prospects for peace and stability in Yemen,” said Department of State spokesman Ned Price.
The Huthis have escalated cross-border attacks on the kingdom even after the US delisted the rebels as terrorists, reversing a decision by the administration of former president Donald Trump.
The designation had been widely criticised by aid organisations, who warned it would hamper their efforts to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
US President Joe Biden halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen’s war, which he called a “catastrophe” that “has to end”.
But he has also reiterated US support for Saudi Arabia in defending its territory.