(The Telegraph) Saudi Arabia has intercepted a rocket fired by rebel Houthi fighters in Yemen, who declared a “new chapter” in its confrontation with the kingdom.
The Volcano 2-H ballistic missiles was aimed at the al-Yamma royal palace in Riyadh, but was stopped by Saudi’s air defences.
Reporters heard a blast and saw a plume of smoke rising above the Saudi capital near the palace, where King Salman chairs weekly government meetings and hosts foreign dignitaries.
It was the second time in as many months that a rebel projectile had reached as far inside the kingdom as Riyadh, and while audacious, neither caused any real damage.
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, referring to the seat of government of the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the coalition.
Earlier this month, the Houthis claimed they fired a missile at an under-construction nuclear plant in the Emirates. The UAE denied the claim.
The rebels claimed Saudi palaces, military and oil facilities were all within range of such missiles fired from Yemen.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, last week displayed what she said was “undeniable” evidence that Iran was supplying the Houthis with missiles. Washington has backed the Saudi-led coalition in its war in Yemen.
Iran, Saudi’s regional foe, rejected the allegations and has repeatedly denied arming the rebels.
Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, has described what Riyadh says is Iran’s supply of rockets to the Houthis as “direct military aggression” that could be an act of war.
More than 8,750 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s fight against the Houthis in 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The attacks, which could further escalate a military campaign by a Saudi-led coalition against the rebels, underscore how the raging Yemen conflict is increasingly spilling across the border.
Saudi and coalition air strikes have intensified since the December 4 killing of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh at the hands of the Houthis after his alliance with the rebels collapsed.
Yemen’s war has killed more than 10,000 civilians and driven millions to the brink of famine.
In a rare public rebuke by a British Cabinet minister, Penny Mordaunt, the secretary of state for international development, said Saudi Arabia had “no excuses” for blocking food and fuel shipments to Yemen and could be in breach of international humanitarian law if it continues to do so
She told the Telegraph last week that the kingdom’s relationship with the UK could be damaged if Riyadh does not act to ease restrictions she warned could push the country into the “worst famine in decades.”