Security

Arab coalition thwarts Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A picture taken on June 19th, 2018 in Abu Dhabi shows Iranian-made Ababil drones which the Emirati armed forces say were used by the Houthis in Yemen in battles against the Arab coalition forces. [Karim Sahib/AFP]

The Arab coalition on Wednesday (October 28th) said it had intercepted six explosives-laden drones and a ballistic missile that were fired into Saudi Arabia by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

"The coalition's air defences shot down six explosives-laden drones that were deliberately fired by the Houthi militia on Wednesday to target civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia," coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said.

According to Al-Hadath TV, Saudi air defences also thwarted another Houthi ballistic missile attack targeting Jizan in the kingdom's south-west.

The Houthis have carried out a string of attacks on the kingdom, including five other drone attacks in the past week.

Al-Maliki accused the Houthis "and those standing behind them" of repeatedly attacking civilian targets in violation of "international humanitarian law and norms and human values".

He vowed that all those who planned and carried out attacks on civilians and civilian targets would be held to account, and said the coalition's Joint Command is taking the necessary steps to protect civilians and civilian facilities.

'Proxy war' for Iran

"Houthi drone, artillery and missile attacks on civilians and civilian facilities both inside and outside the country are attempts to cover up their defeats and score a media victory," said Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Majali.

Political analyst Adel al-Shujaa accused the Houthis of "fighting a proxy war for Iran" and noted that Iran has been supplying them with military expertise.

"Senior Iranian military commanders already have admitted that Iran has transferred its military technology to the Houthis," he told Al-Mashareq.

Iran has supported the Houthis for years with weapons, experts and technology, and they now possess drones and ballistic missiles, political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

These "sophisticated weapons" were not part of the cache the Houthis stole from the Yemeni army when they staged their coup in 2014, he said.

"This shows that the Iranian intervention has gradually boosted the Houthis' capabilities until they became capable of targeting Saudi soil with drones and ballistic missiles," he said.

US embassy warning

Ahead of the Wednesday attacks, US officials had earlier in the day warned of a possible strike on Riyadh, AFP reported.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia, mainly targeting southern provinces along their shared border.

The US embassy in Riyadh warned US citizens in the capital to stay on "alert" and "take necessary precautions".

"The embassy is tracking reports of possible missiles or drones that may be headed toward Riyadh today," the embassy said in a statement on its website.

The Houthis have in the past targeted Riyadh, 700 kilometres north of the border with Yemen, with missiles and drones, with the coalition claiming to intercept most of them.

The attacks come amid intense fighting in recent months as the Houthis try to seize control of Marib province -- the government's last northern stronghold.

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