Yemen’s Houthi rebels said Saturday they’d targeted the international airport in Riyadh with a ballistic missile in a rare attack on one of the most vital targets in the Saudi capital.
The projectile was aimed at King Khalid International Airport, located about 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Riyadh, the rebel-controlled Saba news agency reported. Saudi state-run media said the kingdom’s air defenses intercepted a missile northeast of Riyadh, with no material damage to the airport. Residents in the capital said they heard a loud bang.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have been mired since 2015 in a conflict in Yemen to back an internationally-recognized government against pro-Iranian Shiite rebels. The kingdom says the Houthi rebels are armed and backed by regional rival Iran. While the kingdom’s allies have been able to recover areas in southern Yemen from the Houthis, the rebels still control the capital Sana’a and territories in the north.
The attack is “a problem for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would much prefer the narrative about Saudi Arabia be focused on the gradually loosening of social restrictions in the kingdom, and on economic plans” rather than the costly war in Yemen, said Hani Sabra, founder of Alef Advisory, a Middle East political risk practice.
The Saudi-led coalition said debris from the missile fell over an uninhabited area and the airport’s authority said there was no disruption to flights.