Rockets intercepted above Saudi capital Riyadh, Jazan: Report


Ballistic missiles were intercepted on Saturday in the sky above Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh and the southern city of Jizan, state media reported, citing its own sources and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Residents in Riyadh reported at least three blasts around 23:20 (20:20 GMT), followed by emergency vehicle sirens in some northern districts.

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“A ballistic missile was intercepted and destroyed over Riyadh,” state-run Al-Ekhbariya television reported, citing the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Yemeni rebels. It did not say who was responsible and there wasno immediate claim of responsibility.

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television said two missiles were intercepted over Riyadh while a third missile was shot down over Jizan.

It added that US Patriot missile defence systems were used in the interception.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis battling the Saudi-led coalition have launched hundreds of missiles and drones across the border, mostly at nearby military and civilian targets but also at Riyadh.

The city is about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) north of the border with Yemen. The last attempted attack on the capital was in June 2018.

Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for a September 2019 drone and missile attack on two oil installations that initially halved Saudi oil output, even after the Houthis claimed responsibility. Tehran denies involvement.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ousted by the Houthis in 2014.

Call for global ceasefire

The latest missile attack comes after all parties in Yemen’s long conflict offered support on Thursday for the United Nations’ call for a ceasefire to protect civilians from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni government and the rebels all welcomed an appeal from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an “immediate global ceasefire” to help avert disaster for vulnerable people in conflict zones.

The call coincided with the fifth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war, at the helm of a military coalition supporting the internationally recognised government against the Houthi rebels.

The war has killed more than 100,000 people, many by Saudi-led air raids. The war also created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.

With the escalation in fighting in Yemen, more than 40,000 people have been displaced since January, adding to the roughly 3.6 million who have fled their homes since the war began.

A number of those fleeing in recent weeks, including women and children, escaped on foot, walking for days without food or water across open desert, according to a recent statement by the United Nations refugee agency.

Yemen’s broken healthcare system has not so far recorded a case of the COVID-19 illness, but aid groups have warned that when it does hit, the impact will be catastrophic in a country already regarded as facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia is scrambling to limit the spread of the disease at home. The kingdom’s health ministry has reported 1,203 coronavirus infections and four deaths from the disease so far.

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