A handout photo taken and released by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on March 29, 2020 shows Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malki giving explanations during a press conference, in Riyadh, on the displayed missile's debris fired on March 28 by Yemeni Huthi military group. (SPA / AFP)
Saudi Arabia came under a missile and drone attack from Iran-backed Yemen rebels that targeted the capital, Riyadh, other cities, and vital military facilities.
A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in an effort to restore the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi
Saudi air defenses intercepted at least four ballistic missiles launched by Houthi rebels at Riyadh, Najran and Jazan, and also destroyed eight explosives-laden drones, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported early on Tuesday.
The Houthi militia said the attacks targeted vital Saudi military facilities like the Defense Ministry, but the kingdom said it blocked the assault.
"Large numbers of long-range ballistic missiles and bomb-laden drones hit the headquarters of the Defense Ministry, the military intelligence agency and King Salman Air Base in Riyadh," Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a statement aired by the Houthi-run al-Masirah television.
"The attack also targeted other Saudi military facilities in the Saudi regions of Jizan and Najran," Sarea said.
He said the attack was in response to "the unjust economic blockade and military aggression on the Yemeni people."
"We will launch more attacks until the blockade is lifted and the aggression is stopped," Sarea said.
A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in an effort to restore the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and the rebels have attacked the kingdom with missiles and drones multiple times.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement that the Houthi attack on Riyadh was a “deliberate hostile action designed to target civilians”.
He did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment on the Houthi report that the attack had struck the defence ministry and air base.
Efforts to propel peacemaking in Yemen have been complicated in recent months by infighting between forces loyal to Hadi’s internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The conflict has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and burdened efforts to deal with a coronavirus outbreak.
A bipartisan group of US senators asked Secretary of State Michael Pompeo this month to pressure Saudi Arabia and Hadi to accept a United Nations push for a broad cease-fire and political talks to end the conflict.
With Xinhua and Reuters inputs
HONG KONG NEWS