Yemeni missile is ‘dangerous escalation’ of conflict – Saudi-led coalition

November 6, 2017 - 6:23 AM
A still image taken from a video distributed by Yemen's pro-Houthi Al Masirah television station of what it says was the launch by Houthi forces of a ballistic missile aimed at Riyadh's King Khaled Airport on Saturday, (Houthi Military Media Unit via Reuters TV)

RIYADH — A Saudi-led coalition accused Yemen’s Houthi militia of a “dangerous escalation” on Sunday after Saudi air defense forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired towards Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia also announced financial rewards for information leading to the arrest of 40 leaders it said were responsible for “planning, implementing and supporting the Houthi terrorist group’s various terrorist activities.”

The bounties topped out at $30 million for the armed group’s leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the state news agency reported.

The missile was brought down on Saturday evening near King Khaled International Airport on the northern outskirts of the capital and did not cause any casualties.

“The Houthis’ dangerous escalation came because of Iranian support,” coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said in a televised news conference. Rocket launch vehicles used to fire the missile were made in Iran, he added.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse arch-foe Iran of supplying missiles and other weapons to the Houthis, saying the arms were not present in Yemen before the conflict began in 2015. Iran denies the charges and blames the conflict on Riyadh.

Yemen’s civil war pits the internationally recognized government, backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, against the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The war has already killed more than 10,000 and displaced millions, with around 500,000 cholera cases reported in the country since the worst outbreak in decades started in April.

The Saudi-led coalition’s statement on Sunday echoed accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump, who described the missile as “a shot just taken by Iran” against Saudi Arabia. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps dismissed Trump’s comments as slander.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday the missile launch by Houthi rebels showed there was a danger of ballistic proliferation across the region.

Saudi Arabia has signaled its intention to buy separate air defense systems from the United States and Russia.