Saudi Arabia intercepts missile fired by Houthis



Pieces of an Iranian Qiam ballistic missile are on display after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on December 14th unveiled previously classified information intending to prove Iran violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by providing Yemen's Houthis with arms. [Jim Watson/AFP]

Saudi Arabia on Friday (January 5th) intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen into the kingdom's south, as Riyadh and its allies said the attack "proved" Iran's support for Yemen's Houthis (Ansarallah).

Saudi air defences intercepted the missile in the early hours of the morning, but reported no casualties, the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said in a statement.

The Houthis, who are locked in a war with Yemen's legitimate government, earlier said they had fired a missile at Saudi Arabia's south-western province of Najran in a statement posted on Al-Masirah television channel's social media.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of arming the Houthis, but Tehran denies the allegations.

On Friday, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said the foiled missile attack served as further proof that Iran armed the militia.

"This hostile act by the Iran-backed Houthis proves the Iranian regime remains implicated in supporting the armed Houthis," al-Maliki said, according to a report in the Saudi Press Agency.

'Deliberate targeting of civilians'

Al-Maliki said the attack "deliberately targeted densely populated civilian areas" and had caused minor damage to the property of a Saudi citizen.

The US, a longtime ally of Saudi Arabia, has said Iran manufactured a missile fired by the Houthis towards Riyadh's international airport in November.

In December, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley presented what she called "undeniable" evidence that the missile was Iranian-made.

Tehran rejected the evidence as "fabricated".

A confidential report to the UN Security Council the same month said UN officials had examined debris from missiles fired at Saudi Arabia that pointed to a "common origin" but could not conclude they came from an Iranian supplier.

Sanctions on Iran missile programme

The US imposed sanctions Thursday on five Iranian companies it alleges are working on part of the Islamic republic's illegal ballistic missile programme.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin linked the measure to recent anti-government protests in Iran.

"These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran's ballistic missile programme, which the Iranian regime prioritises over the economic well-being of the Iranian people," Mnuchin said.

"As the Iranian people suffer, their government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fund foreign militants, terrorist groups, and human rights abuses," he added.

The Houthis have increased their rocket attacks on the kingdom since November, firing ballistic missiles on Riyadh on November 4th and December 19th.

The kingdom joined the Yemeni government in its fight against the Houthis in March 2015, after the Iran-backed militia seized control of Sanaa.

The Houthis still control the capital and much of the north of the country.

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