Houthi rebels fire a Scud mis­sile into Saudi Ara­bia

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY AB­DUL­LAH AL- SHIHRI

riyadh, saudi ara­bia — In a po­ten­tially ma­jor es­ca­la­tion of the months-long war, Ye­meni Houthi rebels fired a Scud mis­sile into Saudi Ara­bia early Satur­day, in ap­par­ent re­tal­i­a­tion for more than two months of airstrikes by Saudi-led forces.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency, two mis­siles launched from a Pa­triot mis­sile bat­tery shot down the Scud be­fore dawn near the south­west­ern city of Khamis Mushait. The agency did not re­port any ca­su­al­ties in the attack.

Khamis Mushait is home to the King Khalid Air Base, the largest such fa­cil­ity in that part of the coun­try. Saudis on so­cial me­dia re­ported hear­ing air raid sirens go off around the city dur­ing the attack. The coali­tion re­sponded to Satur­day’s attack by tar­get­ing and dam­ag­ing the Scud launcher, which was found south of the Houthi strong­hold city of Saada, ac­cord­ing to SPA.

It was the first use of a Cold War-era Scud by the rebels since Saudi-led airstrikes tar­get­ing the Houthis be­gan in late March.

Ye­men’s state news agency SABA, now con­trolled by the Houthis, said the rebels fired the Scud. The Houthis are al­lied with mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity forces loyal to for­mer Ye­meni Pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh.

Saudi Ara­bia has been lead­ing the coali­tion car­ry­ing out airstrikes in sup­port of Ye­men’s ex­iled pres­i­dent, Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi. Those strikes have tar­geted arms caches and Scud mis­sile sites across the coun­try.

The Ye­meni mil­i­tary was widely be­lieved to pos­sess about 300 Scud mis­siles, most of which fell into the hands of the rebels.

In April, the spokesman for the coali­tion, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, im­plied that the Scud ar­se­nal in Ye­men had been se­ri­ously de­graded as a re­sult of the airstrikes.

On Satur­day, Asiri told the Saudi-owned al-Ha­dath news chan­nel that coali­tion forces have de­stroyed “most of ” Ye­men’s Scuds.

The Saudis and West­ern pow­ers ac­cuse the Houthis of re­ceiv­ing mil­i­tary sup­port from Shi­ite power Iran as part of a larger proxy war be­tween the Sunni king­dom and the Is­lamic Repub­lic across the Mideast. Tehran and the rebels deny the al­le­ga­tions, though Iran has ac­knowl­edged send­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to the Houthis.

The Saudi-led air cam­paign and ground fight­ing have killed more than 1,000 civil­ians and dis­placed more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple since mid-March, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

The of­fen­sive, now in its third month, has so far failed to force the Houthis to with­draw from any ter­ri­tory they hold or to blunt their ad­vance in south­ern Ye­men.

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