BBC News reports: Saudi Arabia is at war.
You wouldn’t know it on the peaceful streets of its capital, Riyadh, but hundreds of miles to the south the civil war that has torn apart neighbouring Yemen is spilling over the border into Saudi towns and villages.
Saudi officials say more than 500 of their citizens have been killed by the Yemen war, a number dwarfed by the thousands killed in Yemen itself, but still a shock for this otherwise tranquil kingdom that is home to the holiest sites in Islam and is also the world’s biggest oil producer.
We visited the ruins of a girls’ elementary school in the village of Khawber, hit by a Houthi missile in the middle of the night.
In the shattered classroom the school clock lay on the floor, its hands stopped at the moment the missile exploded.
We met badly injured villagers, maimed by flying shrapnel when a Houthi rocket struck their mosque, and we were given rare access to a Saudi army Patriot anti-missile battery, placed in the desert facing Yemen, that has been intercepting ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia’s southern towns.
These Soviet-era missiles are aimed at the towns of Najran, Abha, Gizan, Khamis Mushayt and even, according to the Saudis, at the holy city of Mecca.
These ageing but still deadly Russian-made missiles belong to a stockpile amassed by the Yemeni army over the years and now taken over by the Houthis.
The weapons include Scud B missiles with a payload of nearly one tonne of high explosives, and the smaller Tochka with a payload of 482kg of explosives.
Saudi officers showed us the remnants of a downed Tochka, still bearing Cyrillic writing on its fuselage.
Between 6 June 2015 and 26 November 2016 the Saudi authorities have recorded 37 ballistic missiles fired from Yemen across the border into Saudi airspace.
Yet the damage to Saudi Arabia pales before the destruction next door in Yemen. [Continue reading…]