‘Riyadh Lights Up’: Saudi Arabia intercepts missile attack over capital

The skies of Saudi Arabia lit up on Saturday night as multiple explosions were heard as a Saudi-led military coalition announced the thwarting of a missile attack that it blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Brigadier General Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said in a statement that the Houthis launched a ballistic missile towards Riyadh and three drones towards the province of Jizan, with a fourth towards the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait.

No casualties were reported, although state-run Al Ekhbariya television said fragments of the missile scattered over several Riyadh neighbourhoods, damaging at least one home.

The attacks came as Saudi Arabia hosted a Formula E championship on the outskirts of Riyadh, which state media said was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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

Over the years Houthi missile and drone attacks on the kingdom have grown, 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 aerial bombing campaigns in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians and hit non-military targets, including schools, hospitals and wedding parties.

US President Joe Biden announced this month that he was ending his country’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, including “relevant” arms sales.

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 intervene. But years of bombing have failed to shake the rebels’ hold on the capital Sanaa, and they have steadily expanded their reach in the country’s north.

The Houthis are now pressing ahead with a deadly offensive to seize the Yemeni government stronghold of Marib, where some of the country’s richest oil fields are found.