Inside Story

Yemen: What does Houthis’ new military capability mean?

Houthi rebels say they are now able to target major cities and oil facilities deep inside Saudi Arabia.

In the two years since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war, fighting has often spilled over the country’s borders.

Until now, that meant shelling of Saudi cities and villages close to the frontier.

But the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, and much of the north of the country, have long threatened to take the war directly to Saudi Arabia

The group says it is now able to target major cities in Saudi Arabia and claims to have successfully hit a Saudi oil facility in the Red Sea port of Yanbu last week. US officials have confirmed the missile attack but the Saudi government denied it.

The development is significant because Yanbu is more than 900km from the northern Yemeni province of Saada, from which the missile was launched. If Yanbu is within range of Houthi weaponry, then so is much of the rest of Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudis deny reports of the Yanbu attack they say, they did intercept a missile 69km south of Mecca this week. The Saudi-led coalition called that launch a “desperate attempt” to disrupt the upcoming pilgrimage season.

So if the Houthis really are capable of attacking cities and oil facilities deep inside the kingdom, what does that mean for the ongoing war in Yemen?

Presenter: Richelle Carey


Hussain al-Bukhati – Yemeni political commentator and pro-Houthi journalist

Oubai Shahbandar – Managing director of Orient Media and former political adviser to the US military’s Special Operations Forces

Andreas Krieg – Assistant professor of defence studies, King’s College London