Saudi Arabia thwarts Houthi missile attack on royal palace

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels towards the capital Riyadh on Tuesday, the third such missile in two months.

A statement from the Saudi-led coalition forces said the missile was intercepted by Saudi Patriot defence systems south of Riyadh causing the debris to scatter.

Houthis fired a Volcano H-2 ballistic rocket al-Yamamah royal palace to mark 1000 days since the Saudi-led coalition started their air offensive against them, said Ali al-Qahoum, a Houthi leader. The missile was fired at the palace after they received information that Saudi leaders were holding a meeting inside, he said.

In a televised address, rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said the range of missiles in the Houthi arsenal was being extended. “Our long hand will reach other places, God willing,” he said.

“As long as you continue to target Sanaa, we will strike Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Abu Dhabi is the seat of government of the United Arab Emirates, a member in the coalition forces.

Houthis said the latest missile attack marks the beginning of a new chapter in its conflict with Saudi Arabia. They claimed Saudi royal palaces as well as oil and gas production and military facilities are now well within range of their missiles.

There were no reports of injuries or damage to buildings or infrastructure when the Houthi missile was shot down.

Residents in Riyadh said they heard a loud explosion across the capital that shook windows. A plume of smoke then rose above the capital.

Last month, Saudi Arabia had intercepted two ballistic missiles fired from Yemen, one near King

Khalid International Airport in Riyadh and the other in the south-western province of Assir.

Saudi-led coalition retaliated by imposing a blockade on Yemen to stop the flow of Iranian arms to the Shiite Houthis. The blockade was gradually lifted amid strong international pressure, allowing in a few planes and ships carrying aid.

A UN official warned on Tuesday that restrictions of fuel imports into Yemen have sent water prices soaring as water pumps are running out of diesel.

For over two thirds of poor Yemenis, safe water is now completely unaffordable, said Geert Cappelaere who manages Middle East operations for the UN Children’s Fund.