A tribesman loyal to the Al Houthi movement carries a cardboard model of a missile during a gathering to mark 1,000 days of the Saudi-led military intervention in the Yemeni conflict in Sana’a on Thursday. Image Credit: REUTERS

United Nations: The UN Security Council has condemned “in the strongest possible term” this week’s ballistic missile attack by Iran-backed Al Houthi militants in Yemen against Saudi Arabia’s capital or Riyadh.

A statement approved Friday by all 15 council members “also expressed alarm at the stated intention of Al Houthis to continue these attacks against Saudi Arabia, as well as to launch additional attacks against other states in the region.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Yemeni militants said it intercepted a missile over Riyadh on Tuesday, according to media reports.

Al Houthis fired the missile targeting the Yamama Palace in Riyadh, where the Saudi monarch presides at weekly government meetings and receives foreign leaders.

The Security Council called for implementation of an arms embargo on Al Houthis and called on the parties in Yemen to start negotiating a political settlement.

The council called on all UN member states to fully implement all aspects of the arms embargo against Al Houthi militants as required by the relevant Security Council resolutions, and expressed its grave concern about the reports of continuing violations of the embargo.

Expressing concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, it called on all parties to allow safe, rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies and personnel to the populations of all affected governorates, and to facilitate access for essential imports of food, fuel and medical supplies into Yemen and their distribution throughout the country.

The Security Council expressed concerns about the lack of progress in peacemaking and reiterated its call for all parties to engage constructively in the peace efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad.

The Security Council reaffirmed its strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen, said the statement.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia opened the Red Sea port city of Hodeida for 30 days.

“The port of Hodeida will remain open for humanitarian and relief supplies and the entry of commercial vessels, including fuel and food vessels, for a period of 30 days,” according to the Saudi Press Agency.

UK government officials said ministers had presented operational details to Saudi officials on ships awaiting clearance, and this had helped lift restrictions on three commercial food ships and one fuel ship.

The officials said the first fuel vessel to be cleared to enter Hodeida in over a month was due to dock in the next 24 hours.

Fuel is vital to pump water, transport food and mill grain. Yemen aid agencies said they expected shipments to start moving shortly.

Hub to smuggle weapons Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said Hodeida was being used by Al Houthi militants to smuggle in weapons from Iran.

Three ballistic missiles were launched — and intercepted — towards Riyadh in the past month.

Saudi Arabia has declared the attacks as “acts of war”.

The Saudis say that Iranian smuggling of weapons has fanned the flames of war in Yemen. They also accuse Al Houthis of hijacking aid supplies.

In the coming days, the US will discuss several options for UN Security Council action against Iran such as sanctions.

During a council meeting on Iran on Tuesday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley drew a list of possible measures that immediately drew strong reservations from Russia, which has friendly relations with Tehran.

The US has accused Iran of arming Al Houthi militants in Yemen, providing missiles that have been fired at Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia shot down over Riyadh a ballistic missile fired by Al Houthis, in a strike that Haley said “bears all the hallmarks of previous attacks using Iranian-provided weapons”.

The missile attack on Riyadh should be a “flashing red siren for this council”, she said.

Internationally-recognised Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi came to power in early 2012 after Arab Spring protests ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In 2014, an Al Houthi-led coup placed Hadi under house arrest.

He was able to escape and has since shifted his government’s headquarters to Aden from where he has led an offensive against Al Houthis.

With help from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the Yemeni army has liberated 85 per cent of Yemeni territory, but Al Houthis still control the capital, Sana’a, and most northern provinces including Hodeida, Ibb, Mahweet, Yareem, Amran, Baydha and Hajja.