Saudi air defence intercepts five Houthi drones: SPA

Monitoring Desk

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia says its air defence forces intercepted five drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis at Abha airport and the city of Khamis Mushait in the latest escalation of conflict in the region.

The air traffic and airspace at Abha airport were operating normally, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency said early on Friday.

At least 26 people were injured after Houthis fired missiles at Abha airport on Wednesday, drawing a sharp response from Riyadh which vowed to take “stern action”.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement earlier said that it carried out drone attacks on Abha Airport days after it targeted the airport in southwest Saudi Arabia with missiles, the group’s Al Masirah TV reported.

The rebels, who have been fighting the Saudi-led coalition since March 2015, have carried out at least four attacks on Saudi Arabia this week as it has stepped up attacks on the kingdom amid tensions between Shia power Iran and the United States, Saudi Arabia’s main ally.

On Monday, Saudi air defence forces intercepted two drones targeting Khamis Mushait in the kingdom’s south.

It caused no damage or casualties, the Saudi-United Arab Emirate (UAE) coalition, which intervened in Yemen in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was removed from power by the Houthis in late 2014.

Last month, the Saudi air force shot down a bomb-laden drone deployed by Houthi rebels that targeted Jizan airport, close to the southern border with Yemen.

The airport is used by thousands of civilians every day, but the coalition reported no casualties and warned the rebels of a strong response.

Two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia were targeted by Houthi drones in May causing minor supply disruptions highlighting an apparent significant leap in the drone capabilities of the Houthis.

The rebels say they had the right to defend themselves in the face of five years of Saudi-UAE bombing and an air and sea blockade.

The conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, aid agencies say.

It has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 24.1 million – more than two-thirds of the population – in need of aid.