Saudi Arabia Intercepts a Missile Attack Over Its Capital Riyadh

Published February 28th, 2021 - 11:07 GMT
Houthi missiles attempt to land in Riyadh
The Biden administration has faced some criticism that the president should have been tougher on the crown prince, who was not sanctioned for the 2018 murder.

Saudi Arabia said it intercepted a missile attack over its capital on Saturday as well as bomb-laden drones targeting a southern province.

The attack marks the latest in a series of airborne assaults it has blamed on the Iran-allied Houthis rebels in Yemen's civil war.

Dramatic videos posted by the state-owned Al-Ekhbariya to Twitter which appear to show the ballistics missile being intercepted and detonated in the air above Riyadh. 

The attack comes after a U.S. intelligence report found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, had approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Biden administration has faced some criticism that the president should have been tougher on the crown prince, who was not sanctioned for the 2018 murder.

President Joe Biden said on Saturday that his administration will announce what it is 'going to be doing with Saudi Arabia' on Monday as former CIA Director John Brennan said Biden should not 'turn a blind eye' to bin Salman's actions. 

Brennan, who served as the CIA chief from March 2013 to January 2017, called on Biden to prevent bin Salman from ever entering United States while still maintaining a 'longstanding strategic partnership' with Saudi Arabia.

'The United States and Saudi Arabia have had a longstanding strategic partnership that I think is very important to both countries,' Brennan said in an interview with MSNBC's Joshua Johnson.

'It runs the gamut from energy to security, counter-terrorism and economics. So therefore, I do think it's important we maintain the strength of that relationship.' 

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen´s yearslong war announced on Saturday that the Iran-allied Houthis had launched a ballistic missile toward Riyadh and three booby-trapped drones toward the province of Jizan. 

A fourth booby-trapped drone was fired toward another southwestern city, and other drones being monitored. No casualties or damage were initially reported. There was no immediate comment from the Houthis.

The attack comes amid sharply rising tensions in the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion struck an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman. That blast renewed concerns about ship security in the strategic waterways that saw a spate of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in 2019.

Social media users also posted videos, with some showing residents shrieking as they watched the fiery blast pierce the night sky, which appeared to be the kingdom's Patriot missile batteries intercepting the ballistic missile.

Col. Turki al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the Houthis were trying in 'a systematic and deliberate way to target civilians.'

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued a warning to Americans, calling on them to 'stay alert in case of additional future attacks.' Flight-tracking websites showed a number of flights scheduled to land at Riyadh´s international airport diverted or delayed in the hour after the attack.

A civil defense spokesman, Mohammed al-Hammadi, later said scattered debris resulted in material damage to one house, though no one was hurt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

As Yemen's war grinds on, Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown commonplace, only rarely causing damage. 

Earlier this month the Houthis struck an empty passenger plane at Saudi Arabia's southwestern Abha airport with a bomb-laden drone, causing it to catch fire.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread international criticism for airstrikes in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties. 

President Joe Biden announced this month he was ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including 'relevant' arms sales. But he stressed that the U.S. would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside attacks.

In 2019, Trump vetoed three resolutions passed by Congress with bipartisan support to stop several arms sales benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Trump administration has been slammed by Democrats and human rights groups for backing Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen's civil war. 

The Houthis overran Yemen´s capital and much of the country's north in 2014, forcing the government into exile and months later prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to launch a bombing campaign.

This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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