DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it intercepted ballistic missiles and bomb-laden drones launched by Yemen's Houthi rebels in an attack that began the previous night.
The kingdom has fought a yearslong war against the Iranian-backed Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital in September 2014.
The attack began late Monday, with a brief statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency suggesting other drones may have slipped passed Saudi air defenses, without elaborating.
On Tuesday, the SPA news agency quoted the kingdom's military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, as saying that Saudi air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired “toward Riyadh." The report did not elaborate. Al-Malki said the Houthis launched two other ballistic missiles and eight bomb-carrying drones in the attack, all of which the kingdom destroyed.
The Houthis claimed they targeted the headquarters of Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry, the King Salman air base and an intelligence building in the capital, Riyadh, along with other military buildings in the regions of Najran and Jizan in the kingdom's south.
Yahai Sarei, a Houthi military spokesman, said in a statement that they used ballistic missiles and drones in the attack, which came as the rebels are pressing ahead to take control of the oil-rich central province of Marib from the government forces.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the Houthi attacks and called on the Iranian-backed rebels to instead allow for a U.N. humanitarian response to the coronavirus pandemic in areas under their control.
“With over a million Yemenis believed to have contracted Coronavirus, it is more vital than ever that the Houthis cease their hostilities and allow the U.N.-led humanitarian response to get on with saving Yemeni lives,” he said in a statement.
The Associated Press has previously reported that Houthi rebels have obstructed the work of U.N. humanitarian agencies, using visas and travel permits as bargaining chips to control U.N. operations in the country. The rebels have reported only four confirmed cases of the virus, including one fatality, a Somali migrant.
Earlier this month, the world body failed to obtain enough funds from international donors to support its humanitarian operation in Yemen amid the pandemic. U.N. officials and donors have cited the Houthis’ obstruction of humanitarian work as one of the main reasons behind cuts in donations, which threatens to deprive millions of Yemenis of aid.
The Houthis have in the past launched drone and missile attacks against the kingdom, which has used its airpower to carry out devastating airstrikes that have also killed Yemeni civilians, drawing international condemnation.
The rebels have largely ignored a unilateral cease-fire earlier declared by Saudi Arabia, which launched its campaign against them in 2015 to back Yemen's internationally recognized government.
The attack came after Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that Yemen's southern separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates, and the country’s internationally recognized government have agreed to a cease-fire after months of infighting.
The agreement aims to close the rift between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, nominal allies in a war against the Houthis.