The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen closed off the land, sea and air ports to the Arab world’s poorest country early Monday after a rebel-fired ballistic missile targeted Riyadh, blaming the launch on Iran and warning it could be “considered as an act of war.”
The coalition’s statement ramps up tensions between the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom and its Shiite rival Iran, both of which have interests in Yemen’s yearslong conflict. The bloodshed continued Sunday as an Islamic State-claimed militant attack in Aden killed at least 17 people.
In a statement, the coalition accused Iran of supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels and their allies with the missile launched Saturday toward the Saudi capital’s international airport.
Iran has backed the rebels, but denies arming them. The Houthi militants have said their Volcano-variant ballistic missile is locally produced.
The Saudi-led coalition’s statement said the closures would be temporary and “take into account” the work of humanitarian and aid organizations. The war has claimed more than 10,000 lives and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
“Iran’s role and its direct command of its Houthi proxy in this matter constitutes a clear act of aggression that targets neighboring countries, and threatens peace and security in the region and globally,” the statement said. “Therefore, the coalition’s command considers this a blatant act of military aggression by the Iranian regime, and could rise to be considered as an act of war against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The statement added: “The coalition command also affirms that the kingdom reserves its right to respond to Iran in the appropriate time and manner.”
There was no immediate response from Iran, though Iran’s defense minister, Gen. Amir Hatami, earlier denied his country was involved in the launch.
“Does anyone ask the United States what are you giving to Saudi Arabia?” he was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying Sunday. The U.S. has offered logistical and targeting support to the Saudi-led coalition.