ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has condemned the firing of missiles by Yemeni rebels at Makkah and commended the vigilant Saudi defence forces for intercepting the missiles.

A press release issued by the Foreign Office here on Tuesday said Pakistan reaffirmed its solidarity with Saudi Arabia and reiterated its support against any threat to the security of the kingdom.

In Riyadh, Saudi-owned media accused the Yemeni rebels of targeting Makkah after Saudi Arabia and its allies said they had intercepted two missiles over the kingdom. The exiled Yemeni government, which is based in Saudi Arabia, echoed the claim but the Houthi rebels denied any such attack.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said two missiles were shot down between Jeddah and Taiz districts of Makkah province on Monday but did not elaborate on the suspected target or who fired them.

Riyadh and its allies say they intercepted two missiles over the kingdom; Yemeni rebels deny any such attack

However, the satellite news network Al-Arabiya and pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said the missiles were fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels at Makkah. They said it was the third such launch by the Houthis targeting the holy city since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war in Yemen in March 2015.

The Houthis denied any such missile fire, saying they would have claimed responsibility had they been behind a launch. “We wouldn’t be embarrassed to claim any operation to defend our people and land,” a rebel spokesman said in a tweet.

The exiled Yemeni government’s information minister, Muammar al-Iryani, said: “The Houthi militias targeted Makkah ... on orders from Iran.”

The claim comes against the backdrop of rising regional tensions between Iran and Gulf Arab countries allied with the United States.

Saudi Arabia is to host twin summits in Makkah next week of the Arab League and of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Mr Maliki said the Houthis attacked a “civilian installation” in Najran province bordering Yemen with a drone loaded with explosives, without reporting casualties.

The armed drone hit a weapons depot at Najran airport, setting off a blaze, according to the rebels’ Al-Masirah television.

Last week, Saudi Arabia temporarily shut down a key oil pipeline after Houthi drone attacks on two pumping stations.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019