DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia's Air Defense Forces intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile over the capital around midnight, state media said early Sunday.
Residents of Riyadh reported on social media hearing loud explosions in the middle of the night. Minutes later, state media carried a statement by Saudi Arabia's military saying it had destroyed a missile over the city. Saudi state TV reported that American Patriot missile defense systems were used in the interception.
There were no immediate reports of injuries. Another missile was also intercepted and destroyed over the southern Saudi city of Jizan, which borders Yemen, according to Saudi-owned media outlets.
The incidents come amid an intensification of fighting in Yemen between Saudi-led forces and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthis frequently launch missiles across Yemen's border into Saudi Arabia, but the missiles rarely reach the capital. Riyadh is around 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) north of the border with Yemen.
With the escalation in fighting in Yemen, more than 40,000 people have been displaced since January, adding to the roughly 3.6 million who have fled their homes since the war began five years ago. A number of those fleeing in recent weeks, including women and children, escaped on foot, walking for days without food or water across open desert, according to a recent statement by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The war has killed more than 100,000 people, many by Saudi-led airstrikes. The war also created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the pillars of the U.S.-backed coalition fighting in Yemen, launched the war after the Houthis seized Yemen's capital and much of the country’s north in 2014. The coalition intervened to restore the internationally recognized government and push back what Saudi Arabia saw as an emerging Iranian threat on its southern border.
While some Western governments have suspended arms deals with Saudi Arabia over the war, the Trump administration has beefed up America's military presence in the kingdom in response to threats from Iran. Last year, around 2,500 U.S. troops, a squadron of Air Force F-15 fighter jets and two Patriot missile batteries were deployed to a desert air base just outside Riyadh.