RIYADH: Yemen’s Houthis fired a salvo of ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia’s capital on Wednesday — an attack Saudi authorities said they intercepted in the skies over Riyadh.

The assault took place a day after Saudi Arabia’s top Western ally the United States pulled out of a deal with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme and could signal an uptick in tensions between Riyadh and regional rival Tehran.

The Houthis said the missiles were launched at economic targets in Riy­a­­dh, the group’s al-Masirah TV repor­ted. At least four blasts were heard in the city centre, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The Houthis have fired a series of missiles into the kingdom in recent months, part of a three-year-old conflict in Yemen widely seen as a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Colonel Turki al-Malki, spokesman for the US-backed Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said in a statement that Saudi air defences had intercepted one missile, with another falling in an uninhabited desert south of the city.

A spokesman for the Houthi-aligned military Colonel Aziz Rashed told al-Masirah that the attack marked “a new phase” and was revenge for Saudi air strikes on Yemen after a coalition air strike last month killed the Houthis’ top civilian leader.

“There will be more salvos until this enemy is deterred, understands the meaning of the Yemeni threat and ceases its crimes,” Rashed said.

He did not mention US President Donald Trump’s decision hours earlier to pull out of the international nuclear accord with Iran. But there are fears that the decision could exacerbate the conflict in Yemen and other regional flashpoints.

Saudi Arabia and other US allies queued up on Wednesday to praise Trump’s decision, as did Yemen’s internationally-recognised government, which has been forced into exile by Houthi advances.

The Yemeni government said the US withdrawal was a necessary step to stop Iran’s “destabilising and dangerous” behaviour.

“The Iranian regime has exploited the benefits of the nuclear agreement to export violence and terrorism to its neighbours,” it said in a statement.

Saudi state media said separately that air defence forces had intercepted a missile launched at the southern city of Jizan, in an attack also claimed by the Houthis.

“This hostile action by the Houthi militia backed by Iran proves the continued involvement of the Iranian regime,” Malki was quoted as saying by state news agency SPA.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2018