On June 23, 2020, in the morning, Houthi rebels in Yemen said they had fired missiles into Saudi Arabia that reached the capital, Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia said it “successfully intercepted and destroyed” the missiles, which it said were headed toward Riyadh.
Col. Turki al-MALIKI, the spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition, said about the attack: “a hostile, deliberate and systematic operation to target civilians and civilian objects” according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
The Houthi movement is backed by Iran and has been embroiled in a civil war with the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi Arabia led coalition, since 2015. The movement controls the capital Sanaa and a part of North West.
Yahya SAREA, Houthi military spokesman said in a televised speech that: “A large number of winged ballistic missiles and drones targeted the capital of the Saudi enemy … pounding military headquarters and centres including the defence and intelligence ministry and King Salman Air Base”.
The Houthis said they had also targeted military sites in other cities including Jazan and Najran in the south, close to the border with Yemen.
Mamoun Abu-NOWAR – a retired Jordanian air force general said to Al Jazeera, the latest developments were reason enough to make Saudi Arabia insecure about its military prowess – despite Riyadh’s claims of intercepting missiles.
“Reaching Riyadh with that accuracy and targeting the ministry of defence and some other military base is a big escalation because the Houthis are winning now in Jawf and some parts in Yemen” Mamoun Abu-NOWAR added.
“This makes the Saudis insecure and unstable for any investment in the future and it’s a big threat for the Saudi defence air system which I feel is a bit weak to intercept such missiles,” he continued. “They need the THAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) system which intercepts missiles beyond the atmosphere”.
The attack came after Saudi Arabia announced on June 22, 2020, that Yemen’s southern separatists backed by UAE and the country’s internationally-recognised government, agreed to a ceasefire. The agreement aims to close the rift between the two former allies in the war against the Houthi.
The attack shows the long-range missile capabilities of Houthi. The capital Riyadh is 990 kilometres from the Yemen border.
The attack comes in a difficult time for Yemen, last week; Houthi rebels said a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 13 civilians including four children according to the charity Save the Children.
“This tragedy is yet more proof that, even though the war in Yemen has dropped off the radar of many people, it is still far from over” Xavier JOUBERT, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, said in an emailed statement. “Millions of children are trapped in a toxic cycle of violence, fear, malnutrition and disease, while bombs are falling and COVID-19 is holding the country in a tight grip, taking children’s loved ones at will”.
The coalition said the strike was aimed at armed Houthi and civilians were not targeted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional misery in Yemen, and Houthi authorities have reportedly underreported virus cases.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis, including civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as millions remain at risk of starvation.
The UN and aid agencies urged the warring sides to declare a ceasefire to help fight the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly. Doctors and aid workers think that thousands of Yemenis are being infected every week and hundreds are dying, even as official figures remain low for various reasons, including a lack of testing and suppression of the virus’s impact by Houthi authorities.
This article was edited using the data from the Aljazeera.com, Washingtonpost.com, Al-monitor.com, and Aa.com.tr.