Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia iStock

Saudi Arabia intercepted what was described as a “hostile target” over Riyadh on Saturday, AFP reported.

An explosion was heard in the Saudi capital at around 11:00 a.m. local time, according to the report.

The Saudi-led coalition, which backs Yemen’s internationally recognized government against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, said it had “intercepted and destroyed a hostile air target going towards Riyadh”, without elaborating.

While Saudi Arabia has been repeatedly targeted by the Houthis since its intervention in the Yemen war in 2015, it is rare for drones and missiles launched by the Houthis to reach the capital Riyadh.

The Houthis and their allies took over large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, in 2015. A Saudi-led military coalition then intervened in Yemen to try to restore the government.

It has long been believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthis to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.

Iran denies it is backing the Houthis and has also denied Saudi Arabian accusations that Tehran provided the Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic capabilities.

Earlier this month, then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Houthis had been designated as a foreign terrorist organization.