Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement said it launched a large missile and drone attack deep in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday that struck the Defense Ministry and a military base in Riyadh, but the kingdom said it blocked the assault.
The Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the group for five years said it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis toward Riyadh. There was no immediate confirmation by the coalition or Saudi authorities about specific targets.
A Reuters witness in the capital heard two loud blasts and saw billows of smoke in the sky over Riyadh close to dawn. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
“A large number of winged ballistic missiles and drones targeted the capital of the Saudi enemy … pounding military headquarters and centers including the Defense and Intelligence Ministry and [King] Salman Air Base,” Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a speech.
He said attacks were also launched against military sites in the southern Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan that border Yemen.
Violence between the two sides has surged after the expiry last month of a six-week ceasefire prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The coalition has responded to cross-border Houthi missile and drone attacks with air strikes.
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 Defense Ministry and air base.
In a statement on Saudi state news agency SPA, Malki said the coalition on Tuesday intercepted three missiles fired towards Najran and Jizan, and several armed drones launched toward the kingdom late on Monday.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.