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Houthi Rebels are Now Striking Saudi Arabia with Cruise Missiles

RIYADH – Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for an apparent cruise missile strike on an airport in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The group has released video showing its fighters launching a missile, Arab media reported Thursday.
The footage offers additional evidence that the Yemeni militants’ arsenal, which already contains suicide drones and short-range ballistic missiles, has expanded to include another relatively advanced weapon system.
Saudi authorities confirmed the strike on Abha International Airport on June 12, 2019, saying that it had injured 26 people, eight of them serious enough to require they go to a nearby hospital. The remaining individuals only required first aid on the scene. Abha is situated approximately 100 miles from the Yemeni border.
In December 2017, the Houthis said they fired more of their Soumar-like missiles at the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, a claim the UAE has denied. Though the Yemeni militants released footage of them launching the missiles in that incident, as well, there is no evidence that they hit their targets.
A low-flying cruise missile such as Soumar could also pose a particular challenge to air defense networks in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Multiple missiles, or combining them with other weapons as part of a larger strike, could overwhelm the defenders. In the new strike on Abha International Airport, Saudi authorities said they had successfully intercepted two suicide drones.
There has been a significant increase in Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia since the beginning of May 2019. The group has also employed short-range ballistic missiles, against Saudi targets, but this appears to be the first time they used one of their cruise missiles against the country.
The Houthi cruise missile strike also comes after the U.S. government announced it had received intelligence that purportedly warned of an increased risk of attacks on U.S. forces throughout the Middle East from Iran and its regional proxies. The United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed the Yemeni rebels for attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of the UAE, but no group has so far taken responsibility for that incident.
It remains unclear whether or not the increase in Houthi strikes on Saudi Arabia is at all related to information the U.S. government says it has received or is simply a part of the ongoing conflict between the two parties. Since May 2019, both sides have been fighting each other despite an already shaky U.N.-brokered ceasefire that required the Yemeni rebels to vacate a number of strategic port cities.
“In light of these terrorist and immoral transgressions by the Houthis, the coalition will take strict measures urgently and carefully to deter them,” Saudi Arabian Colonel Turki Al Maliki, the top spokesman for the coalition in Yemen, said on June 12, 2019. The terrorist elements responsible for planning and carrying out this attack will be held accountable.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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