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MISSILE DEFENSE
Saudi Arabia intercepts second Yemen missile in a month
By Anuj Chopra with Natacha Yazbeck in Dubai
Riyadh (AFP) Dec 1, 2017


Yemen Huthis claim ballistic missile hits Saudi target
Dubai (AFP) Nov 30, 2017 - Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels said Thursday they fired a ballistic missile at Saudi Arabia and hit a military target, in the second such attack this month, after threatening to retaliate over a crippling blockade.

"We confirm the success of our ballistic missile trial, which hit its military target inside Saudi Arabia," the Huthi-run Al-Masira television channel said.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hours earlier in a speech broadcast on Al-Masira, rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi warned against "prolonging the blockade" imposed on Yemen following a November 4 rebel missile attack that was intercepted near Riyadh international airport.

"Should the blockade continue, we know what (targets) would cause great pain and how to reach them," he said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies tightened the longstanding blockade on Yemen's ports and the main international airport in Sanaa in the wake of the November missile attack.

The move prompted the Huthis to warn that they considered "airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance" in Saudi Arabia, as well as its ally the United Arab Emirates, legitimate targets.

"We will not stand idly by -- we will seek more radical means to prevent both the tightening of the blockade and all acts aimed at starving and humiliating the people of Yemen," the rebels' political office said this month.

Riyadh accuses its arch-rival Iran of arming Yemen's Huthis and earlier this month Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said this "could be considered an act of war".

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying the Huthis with arms.

Iran's foreign ministry has denied the accusation.

- Rebel rift -

The Huthis, a northern minority that has long complained of marginalisation, descended on the capital Sanaa from their mountainous region in September 2014, seizing the city with little resistance.

Security forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for decades until he resigned under pressure in 2012, joined forces with the Huthis.

Together they forced the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour to flee to the main southern city of Aden and later to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of mainly Sunni Arab allies launched air strikes in March 2015 against the Huthis and later sent ground troops to support pro-government forces.

The conflict has claimed more than 8,600 lives since the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's war against the rebel alliance.

More than 2,000 people have also died of cholera this year.

The United Nations has warned Yemen faces mass famine unless the Saudi-led coalition allows more food aid into the country, long the poorest in the region.

The coalition allowed limited supplies into select areas in Yemen last weekend.

Yemen's conflict, which has enabled Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and the Islamic State group to flourish in the chaos of war, shows no sign of waning.

The Huthi-Saleh rebel alliance has also begun to unravel, with clashes between the Huthis and fighters loyal to the former president leaving at least 14 dead on Wednesday.

Violence between the two, whose alliance first began to show cracks in August, flared again on Thursday night, localised in southern Sanaa and around the residence of two of Saleh's nephews.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired from war-torn Yemen, state media reported, the second such attack this month claimed by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

The missile targeted the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, with authorities reporting no casualties, just hours after the rebels threatened to retaliate over a crippling blockade on Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition against the rebels imposed the blockade, which the UN warns is deepening Yemen's humanitarian crisis, in response to a Huthi missile that was intercepted near Riyadh airport on November 4.

The missile attacks, which could further escalate the coalition's military campaign, underscore how the raging Yemen conflict is increasingly spilling across the border, threatening Saudi towns and villages.

The Huthi-run Al-Masira television channel said Thursday's missile hit a military target inside Saudi Arabia, but the coalition contradicted that claim.

"The missile heading towards the city of Khamis Mushait was intercepted and destroyed without any casualties," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki as saying.

Hours earlier rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi threatened to retaliate if the blockade was prolonged.

"Should the blockade continue, we know what (targets) would cause great pain and how to reach them," he said in a speech broadcast on Al-Masira.

The Huthi rebels this month warned that they considered "airports, ports, border crossings and areas of any importance" in Saudi Arabia, as well as its ally the United Arab Emirates, legitimate targets.

- 'Humanitarian catastrophe' -

The coalition, which accuses the rebels of being a proxy for regional nemesis Iran, justifies the blockade saying it is meant to stop the flow of arms to the rebels from Tehran.

Earlier this month Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said arming Yemen's Huthis could be considered an "act of war", provoking a heated war of words with Tehran.

Iran denies it is supplying the Huthis with arms.

Saudi Arabia and a coalition of mainly Sunni Arab allies launched air strikes in March 2015 against the Huthis and later sent ground troops to support pro-government forces.

The conflict has claimed more than 8,600 lives since the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's war against the rebel alliance.

More than 2,000 people have also died of cholera this year.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday implored Saudi leaders to ease the blockade to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe", her office said, echoing urgent appeals from the United Nations.

May met both Saudi King Salman and Prince Mohammed in Riyadh during a Middle East tour, with the worsening Yemen crisis topping her agenda.

The UN on Monday urged the Saudi-led coalition to do "much more" to ease the blockade impeding shipments of aid and fully reopen the key rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.

The coalition has allowed some supplies to reach rebel-held Sanaa and the Saleef Red Sea port, also in the Huthis' hands.

But little aid has entered through Hodeida, the main conduit for UN-supervised deliveries of food and medicine.

UN officials say Yemen could face the world's largest famine in decades unless the blockade is lifted.

Bouts of rebel infighting are further fuelling insecurity.

A fragile alliance between Huthi rebels and loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has begun to unravel, with deadly clashes erupting Thursday for a second successive night in the capital Sanaa.

burs-ac/jta

MISSILE DEFENSE
Russia test-fires new interceptor missile
Moscow (Sputnik) Nov 27, 2017
The A-135 system is part of the Russian Aerospace Forces. It protects Moscow from missiles strike and also plays an important role in the country's early warning and space control system. A new system has long been in development and is undergoing tests now. The Russian Defense Ministry has published footage showing the modernized missile defense system being tested. During the test conduc ... read more

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