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 starting in Geneva — but with uncertainty looming over whether a Houthi delegation would actually attend.
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 the “consultations” expected over the next few days, a U.N. statement said.
But it said Griffiths was “mindful of the challenges associated with bringing the parties together to Geneva,” and that he has been making “efforts to overcome obstacles to allow the consultations to go forward,” without elaborating.
Houthi officials said they had agreed with the U.N. envoy to evacuate on Wednesday some injured people to neighboring Oman for treatment and others in Muscat to be flown to Sanaa but the flight has not arrived yet. The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen’s airspace and flights from rebel-held Sanaa have been rare to nonexistent in recent months.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said they are in contact with the U.N. envoy over their arrival.
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.