Middle East

Saudi Arabia says missile attack on international airport could be ‘act of war’ as it accuses Iran

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they had targeted King Khalid International Airport with a ballistic missile Saturday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 10:31am

The Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen closed the country’s air, sea and land borders Monday and accused Iran of being behind a weekend missile attack on Riyadh, saying it “may amount to an act of war”.

Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed the ballistic missile, which was launched from Yemen as rebels appeared to escalate hostilities, near Riyadh’s international airport on Saturday.

The missile was the first aimed by the Shiite rebels at the heart of the Saudi capital, underscoring the growing threat posed by the raging conflict.

“The leadership of the coalition forces therefore considers this … a blatant military aggression by the Iranian regime which may amount to an act of war,” the official Saudi news agency SPA said in a statement.

Smouldering debris landed inside the King Khalid International Airport, just north of Riyadh, after the missile was shot down but authorities reported no major damage or loss of life.

Watch: Saudi military fires missile defences in Saturday’s attack

Yemen’s complex war pits the Saudi-backed government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Iran-backed Houthi rebel allies.

The Saudi statement said that the borders were being closed “to fill the gaps in the inspection procedures which enable the continued smuggling of missiles and military equipment to the Houthi militias loyal to Iran in Yemen”.

Despite the temporary closure of the air, sea and land ports, Saudi would protect “the entry and exit of relief and humanitarian personnel”.

“The coalition … affirms the kingdom’s right to respond to Iran at the appropriate time and in the appropriate form,” it added.

Iran provided Yemen’s Houthi militia with ballistic missiles, launchers, explosive-laden drones and sea mines, Turki al-Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, said earlier on state-run television.

US President Donald Trump told Saudi King Salman in a phone call on Saturday he would support the purchase of American military equipment to keep Saudi Arabia safe.

Trump and Salman discussed the “continuing threat of Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen” and the intercepted missile attack, according to a readout provided by the White House.

In comments on Monday to business leaders in Japan, Trump praised the Saudi missile defences, saying they “took the missile right out of the air. Blew it up”.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg