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Saudi Arabia Accuses Iran of 'Act of War' for Missile Launch from Yemen

  • VOA News

People walk next to a poster depicting Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has resigned from his post, along a street in the mainly Sunni Beirut neighborhood of Tariq al-Jadideh in Beirut, Lebanon, Nov. 6, 2017.

Saudi Arabia says its archrival Iran may have committed an "act of war" when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Riyadh.

The Saudis intercepted the missile fired at King Khalid International Airport Saturday.

The Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis says it has the "right to respond to blatant military aggression" by Iran.

"Iranian interventions in the region are detrimental to the security of neighboring countries and affect international peace and security," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Twitter.

Iran denies arming the Houthis and its foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the Saudis for causing death and destruction in Yemen.

"KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) bombs Yemen to smithereens, killing thousands of innocents, including babies, spreads cholera and famine, but, of course, blames Iran," he tweeted.

The coalition said Monday it is temporarily shutting down Yemeni land, sea, and airports in response to the missile attack.

A coalition statement says "vulnerabilities in the current inspection procedures" allow ballistic missiles and other military equipment to reach the Houthis.

Although officials say the closures are temporary, they did not say how long they would last and the United Nations says it is concerned about how to get desperately-needed food and medicine to suffering Yemenis.

Two scheduled humanitarian aid flights to Yemen Monday were grounded.

A Pentagon spokesman told VOA that the U.S. welcomes Saudi Arabia's statement exposing Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) role in Yemen.

"We continue to maintain strong defense ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and work together on common security priorities to include combat operations against violent extremist organizations, and neutralizing Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East region,” the spokesman said.

The Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital of Sana'a in 2014, forcing the internationally-recognized president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh. He later returned to set up his government in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden.

Saudi-led airstrikes aimed at driving out the Houthis have obliterated entire neighborhoods and killed more than 8,000 civilians.

Extremist groups, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, have taken advantage of the political vacuum in Yemen to set up militant camps.

Yemen is one of the world's most impoverished countries and there appears to be little hope for its distressed civilians.

U.N. officials estimate 80 percent of Yemenis lack food, fresh water and medicine on top of a cholera epidemic.

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