Saudi Arabia intercepts Yemeni missile heading for King Salman’s palace

Houthi rebels target Saudi leaders gathered ahead of budget speech

King Of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
(Image credit: Photo by Lintao Zhang - Pool/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia today intercepted a ballistic missile south of Riyadh that Yemen’s Houthi rebels say was aimed at a meeting of Saudi leaders in King Salman’s Al-Yamamah Palace.

Witnesses described seeing a plume of smoke over the capital, Riyadh, at about 10.50am GMT, just before the unveiling of the Saudi budget.

Sky News correspondent Dominic Waghorn spoke of a “huge explosion” and of “people saying that the foundations of the buildings were shaken by the bang”. Saudi officials said there were no injuries or serious damage.

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It was the third ballistic missile attack by the Houthis since the beginning of November, says Al Jazeera.

The first, on 4 November, targeted Riyadh international airport and triggered the tightening of a Saudi-led blockade of Yemen, which is already on the verge of famine. Earlier this month, a missile was intercepted en route to the city of Khamis.

A UN human rights spokesman said today that the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has killed at least 136 civilians and non-combatants since 6 December, reports Reuters.

Saudi Arabia and the US allege that Iran is arming the Houthi movement, which is fighting Yemeni government forces. UN investigators reached no firm conclusion about whether the missile that landed near Riyadh airport in November came from an Iranian supplier, saying only that it had a “common origin” to some Iranian designs, AFP reports.

If today’s missile is linked more conclusively to Iran, the crisis will deepen. “The concern is this is part of a bigger game going on here that could lead to escalation,” said Waghorn, “and ultimately possibly a war between the Saudis and Iranians.”

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