Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Houthi, ballistic missile

Tensions Rise as Saudi Arabia Intercepts Ballistic Missile from Yemen

Yemeni rebels fired a ballistic missile on Saturday, targeting the airport in Riyadh and further escalating the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

  • In a missile attack on Saturday, Houthi rebels targeted the international airport of Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia suggests Iran is behind Yemeni rebels
  • Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns, fearing an assassination attempt
  • Analysts warn of further destabilisation in the region as war with ISIS winds down

Yemeni rebels fired a ballistic missile on Saturday, targeting the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The missile was intercepted by the Saudi military, according to the Arab nation’s Ministry of Defence. The airport’s operations were not affected. There were no reported injuries.

The missile launch was the first attack to come this close to the nation’s capital. It represents a significant escalation in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who overthrew Yemen’s internationally recognised government in 2015.

Saudi Arabia has since been engaged in a proxy war with Iran, which it accuses of backing Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Houthi, ballistic missile
Houthis – Shiite rebels – protest against Saudi-led airstrikes during a rally in Sanaa, March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia bombed key military installations in Yemen on Thursday, leading a coalition in a campaign against the rebels who have taken over much of the country and driven out the president. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The UN Human Rights Office has documented 13,829 civilian casualties in Yemen, including 5,110 people killed, since the beginning of the conflict.

The Houthi-controlled defence ministry claimed the launch was a response to the Saudi-led coalition’s attack on Wednesday that resulted in the death of 26 people in a hotel and adjoining market.

The Saudi-led military alliance, however, suggested that Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels, was behind the attack.

In a tweet from Saudi-run news channel Al Hadath, the coalition said:

This act of aggression against Riyadh proves involvement of one of the terror states supporting the Houthis.

The use of ballistic weapons lends weight to allegations that Iran is supplying the Houthis with technology. Another analysis claims that Yemen could have acquired the missiles from North Korea prior to the current conflict.

The aggression has exacerbated the already tense relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Houthi, ballistic missile
Riyadh city skyline [AFP/Getty images]
In a matter of hours after the missile attack, the Yemeni capital of Sana was targeted in what is the worst series of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in over a year. The defence ministry, among other targets, was hit. The ministry sits in a densely populated area known as Bab al–Yemen, a World Heritage site.

Earlier yesterday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from a government that included Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese ally. Iran and Hezbollah interpreted the resignation as an attempt by Saudi Arabia, Hariri’s patron, to isolate them and thus mitigate Iran’s influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Houthi, ballistic missile,
Saad Hariri, son of slain former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri [Jan Hennop/AFP/Getty Images]
Hariri, however, said that the resignation was due to his fear of an imminent assassination attempt on his life. He accused Iran of wanting to destabilise Lebanon.

Analysts are warning that the Middle East could face increasing destabilisation as the war with ISIS draws to a close and regional powers seek to divide their spheres of influence.

Sarah Mills is a managing editor and writer at Conatus News.

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