Jeddah: Iranian backed Houthi Shia rebels reportedly fired a long range ballistic missile targeting Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca. The report comes from Saudi interior ministry that went on to add that the missile was destroyed mid air well before it could reach Mecca.
If the report is true, this will be the deepest and most serious attack by the Iran backed Shia militia that control Yemeni capital Sana. Till now most of the attacks by the Houthi’s have been limited to Jizan and other adjoining cities bordering Yemen.
There were reports a couple of weeks ago about a purported ballistic missile attack on Taif. At that time too, the missile was intercepted and destroyed by Saudi Arabian forces.
The biggest oil exporter in the world and the country that houses Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has a huge stockpile of American Patriot missiles that are capable to shoot down incoming missiles midair.
But Houthi rebels refuse allegations that they targeted Mecca. On the contrary rebel controlled media in Yemen said the missile targeted an international airport in Jiddah. The missile launch shows the capability of Yemen’s Shia rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies to continue to strike Saudi Arabia. It also drew the immediate anger of Saudi citizens, as the protection of Mecca is a key pillar of the Saudi royal family’s prestige and the country’s national identity.
Meanwhile the Saudi military said the missile, fired on Thursday night from Yemen’s northwestern Saada province bordering the kingdom, caused no damage. The Saudi military has a supply of US-made, surface-to-air Patriot missile batteries it previously has fired at Houthi-launched missiles. The military said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency that it immediately targeted the area where the missile was launched in airstrikes.
Houti rebels usually exaggerate their accomplishment in their war against Saudi led alliance that also involves UAE and Sudan. The Houthis and their allies, including forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have a stockpile of Soviet-era Scud missiles and locally-designed variants. The Houthi-controlled satellite news channel al Masirah published a bulletin saying its forces had fired a Volcano-1 variant missile at Jiddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, without mentioning Mecca. That airport is 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Mecca. The Houthi-controlled SABA news agency said the missile “directly hit” the airport and caused massive destruction. There were no immediate delays or diversions affecting the airport on Friday.