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Houthi missile shot down near Makkah

Kuwait condemns attack

RIYADH: Yemeni rebels have launched one of their longest-range strikes against Saudi Arabia, firing a ballistic missile that was shot down near the holy city of Makkah, the Saudi-led coalition fighting them said yesterday. Saudi Arabia has deployed Patriot missiles to intercept the rebel fire. Houthi rebels launched the missile “toward the Makkah area” on Thursday evening from their Saada province stronghold just across the border, a coalition statement said. “The air defense was able to intercept and destroyed it about 65 kilometers from Makkah without any damage.” Islam’s holiest sites are located in Makkah and Medina.

Angry Saudis soon denounced the missile fire online with hashtags questioning the faith of the Houthis. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the attack which it described as “clear evidence” that the rebels are not willing to accept a political solution to Yemen’s 19-month-old conflict.

Kuwait strongly condemned the missile attack by the “Houthi group and (former president) Ali Abdullah Saleh” towards the holy Makkah region. Targeting Muslims’ qibla is a provocation of their feelings, neglect of the holiness of the blessed spot and disregard of Islamic sanctities, an official source at the foreign ministry said in a press statement. It added that the brutal aggression is considered a grave development, an insistence on rejecting and defying the will of the international community, as well as its efforts to enforce a truce for the aspired political solution that rids Yemen and the entire region from the continuation of the bloody conflict and its repercussions. The statement concluded with praying to Allah to protect Saudi Arabia from all harm.

The United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan went further, criticizing Iran for the attack. “The Iranian regime backs a terrorist group that fires its rockets on Makkah… Is this an Islamic regime as it claims to be?” he wrote on Twitter. Qatar called the attack “a provocation to the feelings of millions of Muslims worldwide”. All GCC states, apart from Oman, are members of the Saudi-led coalition. The UAE itself is a major pillar of the alliance. The coalition as well as the United States accuse Iran of arming the rebels, a charge denied by Tehran. In Iran, state media reported on the ballistic missile fire citing international reports, without any government comment.

The Houthis confirmed the launch of a Burkan-1 ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia in a statement on their official news agency, but said it had been aimed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the kingdom’s busiest airport. The Houthi-controlled SABA news agency said the missile “directly hit” the airport and caused massive destruction, though there were no delays or diversions affecting the airport yesterday. Makkah lies more than 500 km from the border. It is the second time this month that the rebels have fired a missile of that range. On Oct 9, the coalition said it had intercepted a missile near Taif, the site of a Saudi airbase some 65 km from Makkah. – Agencies

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