CAIRO — Seven people were killed in Saudi Arabia when a missile fired from Yemen struck a commercial district in the city of Najran, the kingdom’s official news media confirmed on Wednesday.
The attack, on Tuesday evening, appeared to have been carried out by Houthi militias in northern Yemen in retaliation for a series of deadly airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition on Monday and Tuesday. Those strikes killed 35 people, 17 of them in a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in northern Yemen.
A spokesman for the Houthi-backed army in Yemen, Brig. Gen. Sharaf Luqman, said Yemeni forces had escalated their missile strikes against Saudi Arabia in retaliation.
“They are destroying our nation day and night,” he said. “When they strike us, we are forced to launch missiles. So it’s missiles versus warplanes.”
General Luqman denied, however, that any civilians had been killed in Najran.
“We only strike military targets, in compliance with our political leadership’s orders to conform to the morality of war,” he said.
While missile and rocket attacks across Yemen’s northern border with Saudi Arabia are common, and Houthis often claim to have hit Saudi military targets, this was one of the worst such strikes in recent months.
The official Saudi Press Agency, citing a Defense Ministry spokesman, said that a Yemeni projectile had killed four Saudis and three foreigners in the city of Najran. The foreigners were reportedly migrant workers.
Video posted on social media showed what appeared to be a light industrial complex in flames, with mangled cars and wounded people on the ground nearby, and firefighters working to control the blaze. Najran, a city of about 250,000, is close to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the footage. General Luqman said he had not seen the videos and could not comment on whether they showed civilian casualties.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen on behalf of the United Nations-backed government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after Houthi militias expelled him from the capital and took over much of the country.
The 17-month war has resulted in more than 6,500 deaths, including many civilians killed in coalition airstrikes and fighters who died in ground combat between Houthis and Yemeni government forces.
A cease-fire ended after peace talks collapsed on Aug. 6 and the coalition resumed airstrikes. In the ensuing weeks, Houthi militias also stepped up their attacks across the border, using rockets and missiles.
A recent United Nations report criticized both sides for indiscriminately causing civilian casualties. The report said the Houthis’ use of rockets and missiles was so imprecise that it posed a risk to civilians and violated the rules of war.
General Luqman warned of further escalation. “Attacks on our cities and villages across the fronts will be met by our escalation to liberate our occupied areas,” he said, referring to parts of southern Saudi Arabia that, like Houthi areas in Yemen, have large Shiite Muslim populations.
(via NY Times)