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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi missile from Yemen

A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters
A photo distributed by the Houthi rebels shows the launch of a ballistic missile aimed at Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2018. Reuters

The Saudi Royal Air Force intercepted on Friday a ballistic missile that was launched from Yemen towards the city of Najran, as the Yemeni army prepared for an offensive on a key rebel-held port city.

Col Turki Al Malki, spokesman of the Arab coalition fighting the Houthi rebels on behalf of the internationally-recognised government, said that the missile was launched at around 9pm.

“The missile was heading towards Najran by the Houthi militia to target civilian and residential areas,” he was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“The missile was intercepted by forces of the Saudi royal air force, and there were no casualties or damages.”

Col Al Malki reiterated that the Houthi rebels’ hostile actions is further proof that Iran is backing them and a “clear violation” of international resolutions.

“The launch of ballistic missiles toward residential towns and cities are considered a violation of humanitarian law,” he added.

Iran has long denied supplying arms to the Houthis, though a growing body of evidence contradicts their claim.

The Houthi rebels have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi Arabia since last year, all of which Saudi forces have intercepted.

The Yemen war was triggered when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and later advanced south, taking large swathes of the country.

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After entering the war at the request of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi on March 26, 2015, the Saudi-led coalition — which includes the UAE — has helped pro-government forces to retake much of the territory captured by the rebels. However, Sanaa remains under rebel control.

A Yemeni army spokesman told The National on Saturday that troops — backed by the Arab coalition — are getting ready for an operation to seize back from the rebels the western port city of Al Hodeidah, where Houthis are targeting international shipments.

“The Houthi militia is a serious threat to maritime navigation and international trade through the Red Sea,” he said.

Col Ahmed Ahmed, a marine forces commander in Aden, said that not only are the rebels a threat to trade but may flare up conflict in the region.

“Having Iran proxies in the area would be a fundamental reason behind a possible altercation between the US and its gulf allies and Tehran,” he told The National. “Iran is giving its Houthi proxies the green light to disrupt maritime navigation in international waters.”

Col Shalal Al Showbagi, director of Aden’s port security, urged the international community to take action against such threats.

“The international community, along with the UN, should take action to protect the naval route in the Red Sea and Bab Al Mandab, through which a third of the international oil supplies come,” he said.

"Saudi Arabia and the UAE can’t be held fully responsible of protecting the naval route unless there is a serious stance from the international community and the UN to back their efforts."