Saudi air defenses foil Houthi missile attack on Riyadh

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There were bright flashes in the sky last night as Saudi air defense forces destroyed two ballistic missiles over Riyadh. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted a ballistic missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia over Riyadh. (File photo: AP)
Updated 25 June 2018

Saudi air defenses foil Houthi missile attack on Riyadh

  • Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels, denied claims by the Houthis that the defense ministry had been hit.
  • The latest missile attack on Riyadh has brought new urgency to the military operation by forces from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to capture the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles over Riyadh on Sunday, launched by Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.
Homes in the Saudi capital shook and there were at least six loud blasts, bright flashes in the sky and puffs of smoke above the city. There were no reports of casualties.
The Iran-backed rebels’ news outlet Al-Masirah boasted that the missiles had struck the Saudi defense ministry and other sites in the capital.
But Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels, denied that the defense ministry had been hit.

The attacks were the latest in a series of missile launches targeting densely populated residential areas of Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh and the southern cities of Jazan and Najran, close to the border with Yemen.
The latest missile attack on Riyadh has brought new urgency to the military operation by forces from the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to capture the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
Hodeidah port is a lifeline for humanitarian aid to Yemen, but it is also a conduit for the supply of Iranian weapons to the Houthis, including missiles fired at Saudi Arabia.
The coalition has produced evidence to show that, as well as arms and ammunition, Tehran illegally smuggles missile parts to the Houthis through the port. They are then reassembled and launched at Saudi cities from sites in northern Yemen.
A coalition military operation began two weeks ago to dislodge the Houthis from Hodeidah and halt the supply of weapons and missile parts. 
On Sunday, coalition forces moved closer to the city center.
There was fierce fighting near Hodeidah University, about 3 km west of the city center, on the coastal road linking the city’s airport to the port.
Coalition forces took control of the airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as UN efforts continued to reach a political deal that would avert a full military assault on the port.
Capturing Hodeidah would allow the coalition to cut the supply line to the Houthis in the capital, Sanaa, and the militias are devoting all their resources to retaining control.
“There is a heavy deployment of armed Houthis in the city and new check points have been set up in neighborhoods where there are supporters of the Tehama brigades,” said one resident. The Tehama are a Yemeni faction from the Red Sea coastal plain who are fighting with coalition forces to restore Yemen’s legitimate government.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.
Some civilians have been injured or made homeless in the fighting. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has received 151 injured people in recent days at Al-Thawrah Hospital, the main public medical facility serving Hodeidah, and expects to receive more as the fighting moves toward the city.
“There are 86 beds in Al-Thawrah and we desperately need more. We hope to set up a field hospital with 20 beds in the next two weeks,” said Caroline Seguin, the charity’s program manager for Yemen.
“The battle for Hodeidah is reaching the point of no return,” the International Crisis Group said in a conflict alert.
“This is the final, fragile moment in which it may still be possible for UN-led negotiations to prevent a destructive fight.” 


The shadowy forces attacking civilian targets in Saudi Arabia

Updated 49 min ago

The shadowy forces attacking civilian targets in Saudi Arabia

  • Saturday's coordinated attack on Saudi Aramco oil installations marks a sharp escalation
  • Targets have included Makkah, airports, pipelines, desalination plants and oil facilities

ABU DHABI: When drones targeted the facilities of Saudi Aramco on Saturday, they signaled not only a new phase of a terror campaign against Saudi Arabia but also the determination of malign regional actors to disrupt global oil supplies, cripple energy-reliant economies and stir Middle East tensions.
The two-pronged attack on oil-production facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in the Eastern Province was the biggest on oil infrastructure since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Responsibility for scores of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia involving rockets, drones and ballistic missiles has been claimed by Iran-backed Houthi militias since 2015. Saudi forces are part of a military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
The targets have included the holy city of Makkah, airports, royal residences, oil pipelines, desalination plants and oilfields.
A number of tankers in busy oil lanes have also been subjected to mysterious sabotage attacks involving mines, while commercial vessels have been harassed or seized by Iranian security forces.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Experts say world leaders need to close ranks to put an end to the undeclared war of aggression and bring the faceless perpetrators to heel.
Yossi Mekelberg, a professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, says the attacks on vital installations represent a “really dangerous development” that Saudi Arabia and the wider world cannot afford to “sit back and let happen.”
“This is provocation, plain and simple,” he told Arab News. “This is a very serious escalation as it was an attack designed to cause major harm. Whoever did this knew it was provocation — and that a reaction is also guaranteed.
“Saudi Arabia will not be able to sit back and just let attacks like this happen. Attacks of this kind threaten a country’s economy, its sovereignty, its integrity — however you look at it.”
The Houthis said they carried out Saturday’s attacks with the help of 10 drones. But Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, suggested the projectiles may have been launched from another country. Along with Yemen, Iran has proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — a policy that has long been blamed for causing instability in the region.
“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo said on Twitter. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”
The Arab coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government said it was investigating who was behind the attacks.
According to Jim Hanson, president of the Security Studies Group, “the attacks were likely to have been launched from Iraq and done by Hashd Al-Shaabi militias in cooperation with their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) handlers.”
He said: “The distance from Houthi territory in Yemen is likely too far for the strikes to have come from there. The US should coordinate with Saudi Arabia to ensure the most effective response. Talk alone is not enough; this calls for action.”
However, Iraq’s prime minister has denied reports that Iraqi territory “was used for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.”
In a statement issued on Sunday, Adel Abdul-Mahdi said: “Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors. “The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whoever tries to violate the constitution.”

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, said Saturday's incidents caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil - or about half of the Kingdom's oil capacity, equivalent to five percent of the daily global oil supply. He confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted.
According to Saudi Aramco, the Abqaiq facility is the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world which processes more than seven million bpd of crude. The plant plays a vital role in removing sulphur impurities and reducing vapor pressure of the crude in order to make it safe for being transported by tankers.
The damage also led to the knockout of the production of two billion cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids.
A Refinitiv media advisory said "with the global demand forecasts being revised downwards on the back of trade wars and economic downturn, the impact on prices is expected to be limited unless further clarity on the extent of damage indicates a significant impact on Saudi Arabia’s production and exports."
Commenting on the chances of a recurrence of such attacks, Mekelberg said: “If they do happen again, then the implication for the Gulf is huge. It could lead to great escalation and even war in the Gulf although I do not think this is something anyone wants.
“They will lead to not only Saudi Arabia but other countries, such as the US, to react.”
Moving forward, Mekelberg said, “We need to go back and look at all the issues in the region — and try and solve them diplomatically. We have to try and prevent further violence — before things get out of hand.”