Saudi Arabia: Yemeni rebel missile shot down, 26 wounded

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Saudi Arabia shot down a missile fired across the border by Yemen’s Houthi rebels but the shrapnel wounded 26 civilians, the kingdom’s official news agency reported.

The rebels, known as Houthis, fired the missile into southern Najran province late Wednesday, where it was intercepted, the agency reported. Meanwhile, the rebel-run Al-Masirah TV says the missile targeted a Saudi military camp and hit it “accurately.”

The missile firing came a day before the first U.N.-moderated peace talks in two years involving the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, were to begin in Geneva but apparently fell apart.

The U.N. envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, met Thursday with the head of the government delegation, Foreign Minister Khaled al Yamani, to discuss expectations for “consultations” that were expected over the next few days, a U.N. statement said.

However, a senior Houthi official told The Associated Press late Thursday that Griffiths failed to get the Houthi delegation a flight authorization from the Saudi-led coalition to travel from Sanaa to Geneva.

Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, denied the Houthi claims, telling Sky News that the coalition had allowed the Houthis’ flight to Geneva.

The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen’s airspace and flights from rebel-held Sanaa have been rare to nonexistent in recent months.

Houthi officials had also agreed with the U.N. envoy to evacuate some wounded to neighboring Oman for treatment and others in Muscat to be flown to Sanaa. But they said their demands were not met.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. .

The Saudi-led coalition has been locked in a stalemated war with the Iran-aligned rebels since March 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, which has spawned what the U.N. says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.