Saudi Crown Prince accuses Iran of direct military aggression
The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, already occupied on many fronts including an unprecedented anti-corruption purge, suddenly interfered on Tuesday in the war of words with Iran, which he accused of "direct aggression" in the context of the conflict in Yemen.

"Iran's involvement in supplying missiles to (Yemeni rebels) Houthis is a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and could be seen as an act of war against the kingdom," said Mohammed bin Salman, quoted by the official Saudi agency SPA.

On Monday, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran - the two big rivals in the Middle East - had exchanged violent accusations about Yemen, a country at war where they support opposing sides.

The tension mounted a notch after Saturday's interception over the Saudi capital of a ballistic missile fired by Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.

Debris from the machine fell within the perimeter of Riyadh International Airport, highlighting the risks to civil air traffic.


Saudi Arabia directly accused Iran of providing such missiles to the rebels. Tehran, which denies any military aid to the Houthis, has denied, accusing Riyad of "war crimes" in Yemen.

Since March 2015, Riyadh has been leading a coalition of Sunni countries helping Yemeni government forces in their war against the Houthis and their allies, masters of the capital Sanaa since September 2014.

The conflict has left more than 8650 people dead and 58 600 injured, including many civilians, and caused "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world," according to the UN.

Prince Mohammed, also a defense minister, is seen as the inspiration for the Saudi intervention in Yemen.

The controversy surrounding missile firing risks exacerbating tensions and giving rise to regional escalation, warned experts.

On Monday, the Saudi-led coalition stressed that it reserves the right to respond "in an appropriate and timely manner".

Human Rights Watch (HRW), which is often critical of the Saudi intervention in Yemen, nonetheless considered Tuesday the missile strike on Riyadh as an "apparent war crime" of the rebels.

Trump supports the prince

The coalition imposed a total blockade on Yemen to prevent possible arms deliveries to the rebels. The coalition is already imposing an air embargo at Sana'a airport and inspecting maritime cargoes destined for the country.

The strengthening of the blockade was denounced Tuesday by the United Nations who were alarmed at the impossibility of getting aid to Yemen.

"Humanitarian operations are stalled following the closure by the Saudi-led coalition," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN's Office of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.

The tension between Riyadh and Tehran coincides with an unprecedented purge in Saudi Arabia against princes, ministers, former officials and businessmen accused of corruption.

It was launched by an anti-corruption commission headed by the Crown Prince, 32 years old.

US President Donald Trump on Monday lent strong support to the action of King Salman and his son.

"I have full confidence in King Salman and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they do," he wrote on Twitter. "Some of those they treat hard" bleed "their country for years!", He added.

The purge shows a profound upheaval in Saudi Arabia that breaks with the generally respected consensus within the royal family to manage the affairs of the kingdom.

At the same time, it aims at strengthening the power of Prince Mohammed, engaged in a vast program of economic reforms and continuing his march towards the throne.

The Attorney General for Business said Monday that the suspects would be brought to justice.

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