Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi Rebels Fire Ballistic Missile at Saudi Capital of Riyadh

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Houthi missile launch at Saudi Arabia, screenshot from Twitter
Houthi missile launch at Saudi Arabia, screenshot from TwitterCredit: Screenshot from Twitter

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Tuesday said they fired a ballistic missile targeting the al-Yamamah royal palace in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Houthi-affiliated TV al-Masirah reported. 

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Saudi air defenses intercepted the missile, Saudi-owned channel al-Arabiya reported in a news flash quoting a Saudi-led military coalition. Coalition forces carried out airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen's southern Sanaa in response, al-Arabiya reported.

The Saudis said that Houthis are using humanitarian entry points to smuggle Iranian missiles, which are "a threat to regional and international security." They added that the missile was directed at residential areas in Riyadh.

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul-Salam tweeted that a ballistic "Volcano H-2" missile was used in the attack. The Houthis said the missile strike signals a new chapter in the confrontation with Saudi Arabia, adding that Saudi palaces, as well as military and oil facilities, are within range of their missiles.

Yemeni TV station shows launch of missile, says aimed at Saudi King Khaled airportCredit: Haaretz/Reuters

Saudi leaders were reportedly meeting at the palace at the time of the fire, Houthi media reported. There were no immediate reports of any damage as a result of the intercept, state TV reported. Reuters witnesses in Riyadh reported hearing a blast and seeing a plume of smoke.

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The United States last week presented for the first time pieces of what it said were Iranian weapons supplied to the Houthis, describing it as conclusive evidence that Tehran was violating UN resolutions. 

The arms included charred remnants of what the Pentagon said was an Iranian-made short-range ballistic missile fired from Yemen on November 4 at King Khaled International Airport outside Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, as well as a drone and an anti-tank weapon recovered in Yemen by the Saudis. 

Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with such weaponry and on Thursday described the arms displayed as "fabricated." 

The United States acknowledged it could not say precisely when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis, and, in some cases could not say when they were used. There was no immediate way to independently verify where the weapons were made or employed. 

But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley expressed confidence that the transfers could be blamed on Tehran. 

"These are Iranian made, these are Iranian sent, and these were Iranian given," Haley told a news conference at a military hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, just outside Washington. 

Following Haley's remarks, Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said "the Iranian missile threat extends from the Persian Gulf through Yemen and Syria to Lebanon and Gaza." He added that "today's announcement only proves that the danger Iran poses is growing, despite their attempts to hide. The UN must work immediately to end these dangerous threats." 

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