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Saudis intercept Houthi missile fired at Riyadh

May 20, 2017

Saudi officials have said they shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's rebel Houthi movement towards Riyadh. The missile launch came just a day ahead of US President Donald Trump's arrival in the Saudi capital.

Jemen Saudi-Arabische Truppen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Saudi Arabia's air defense unit said on Friday that it had shot down a Houthi ballistic missile around 200km (120 miles) southwest of the capital, Riyadh.

The Saudi-led coalition said in a statement that it had "intercepted a ballistic missile that was launched by Houthi militias over an unpopulated area."

Read more: Two years on, Saudi intervention in Yemen leaves trail of death

The Houthi movement reported through its official news agency that the Burkan-1 missile had been fired at Riyadh.

Regional power struggle

What began as a largely domestic conflict has morphed into a regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with neither side appearing prepared to lay down their arms.

In 2015, a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemeni civil war against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels in a bid to restore the internationally recognized government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. 

On Friday, the Saudi-owned network, Al-Arabiya TV, reported that the coalition had been "massively" bombing a missile base just outside of the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

After two years of fighting, the conflict has displaced 3 million people, left nearly 8,000 dead and injured more than 42,000. Some 19 million people - two-thirds of the population - are in need of humanitarian aid.

Both Houthi rebels and Saudi coalition have been accused of committing war crimes. 

Infografik Humanitäre Lage in Jemen englisch

Houthi missile marks Trump visit

The Houthi missile launch came just a day ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia.

Read more: Trump in Saudi Arabia - counterterrorism and weapons deals 

High on the agenda will be a series of US-Saudi security deals, with reports suggesting that the Trump administration is prepared to step up non-lethal support for the coalition.

US officials told the Associated Press news agency that the administration planned to announce a $110 billion arms and military training deal with Saudi Arabia. The move would mark a significant reversal in policy from former President Barack Obama, who curbed the US' role in the Yemeni conflict as civilian deaths began to spike.

dm/gsw (Reuters, AFP)

Desperate situation in Yemen