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Saudi Arabia 'shoots down ballistic missiles near Mecca'

Still from a video showing the interception of a ballistic missile over Taif [Twitter]

Date of publication: 20 May, 2019

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Saudi Arabia has shot down two ballistic missiles over the cities of Taif and Jeddah, east and west of Mecca respectively, which it blamed on Yemen's Houthi movement.
Saudi air defences shot down a ballistic missile over the city of Taif, 65 kilometres east of Mecca, in the early hours of Monday morning. Another missile was launched at the port city of Jeddah, on the other side of Mecca, according to Saudi-owned news channel Alarabiya.

Saudi media sources said that the missiles were fired by Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, which controls the Yemeni capital Sanaa and is backed by Iran. However, the Houthis denied firing any missiles at Mecca, Jeddah or Taif.

The Saudi newspaper Okaz reported Saudi air defences had shot down the missile over Taif “with extreme precision” while people were having suhoor, the meal which precedes the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast, and that the attack was evidence of “Iran’s plan to threaten the safety and security of pilgrims [to Mecca] during the nights of Ramadan”.

Many Muslims perform a minor pilgrimage to Mecca, known as umrah, during Ramadan. 

On Tuesday 14 May, the Houthis launched drone attacks on a key oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, describing it as revenge for Saudi airstrikes which had killed Yemeni civilians.

Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering the drone attack and bombed Houthi-controlled Sanaa in response, killing six civilians.

However, the Houthi movement’s military spokesman, Brigadier Yahya Sari denied Monday's strikes.

“This isn’t the first time the Saudi regime accuses us of targeting Mecca… the object of these accusations is to gain support and approval for monstrous aggression” against Yemen, he told pro-Houthi Al-Masirah TV.

Social media users reacted with outrage to the attacks on Monday, with pro-Saudi social media users emphasizing the closeness of the targeted cities to Mecca, prompting the hashtag #HouthisStrikeMecca to trend on Twitter.

The latest attack comes as tensions run high between Iran, the US and its ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Sunday that his country does not want war but “won’t stand with our hands bound” if attacked.

US President Donald Trump also threatened Iran on Monday tweeting: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

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