CAIRO - Rebel Houthi militias in Yemen fired a Scud missile at Saudi Arabia but it was intercepted, military commanders said Saturday in what could be a major escalation in the civil war.
The Scud was fired at 2.45 am local time Saturday (7.45 pm ET Friday) but shot down by two Patriot missiles,
The Sunni kingdom’s military did not report any casualties in the attack, which it blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are Shiite.
"The militias of the Houthis and ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh fired a Scud missile toward the city of Khamis Mushayt,” the command of the joint forces said in a statement issued to NBC News,
“Thanks to Allah, it was intercepted by the Royal Saudi Defense Forces by two Patriot missiles. Immediately, the air forces of the alliance destroyed the rocket launcher.”
Saudi Arabia leads a coalition targeting the rebels in airstrikes that began March 26 in support of the country's exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Those strikes have targeted arms cache and other Scud missile sites around the country.
The Houthis began their advance in September, sweeping into the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and taking over government ministries and other areas. They held top officials, including Hadi, under house arrest until Hadi fled, first to the southern port city of Aden, then to Saudi Arabia as the rebels closed in backed by forces loyal to Saleh.
The Saudi-led air campaign and ground fighting have killed more than 1,000 civilians and displaced more than 1 million people since mid-March, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters Wednesday.
The offensive has so far failed to force the Houthis to withdraw from any territory they hold or blunt their advance in southern Yemen.
The strikes, as well as a Saudi-led air and sea blockade, have caused food, water and medicine shortages, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest country.