Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of launching an aerial attack against its embassy in Yemen’s capital, escalating the two nations’ growing conflict. The Saudis have called the claim “not credible” and called for an investigation, and, indeed, early reports from witnesses say the strike was not aimed at the embassy.
“Saudi Arabia is responsible for the damage to the embassy building and the injury to some of its staff,” Iran’s foreign-ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaber Ansari, reportedly said on the state television network, adding that the damage was “deliberate and intentional.”
Residents and witnesses in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, told Reuters that the embassy wasn’t hit, although there was “some shrapnel strewn nearby.” That account was echoed by the embassy’s own guards, who told the New York Times that the nearest bombs landed on the home of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president who was overthrown in 2012.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have run high since the Sunni monarchy rang in 2016 with the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. Iranian hardliners responded by burning the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting Riyadh and several Arab allies to cut their diplomatic ties with Iran. On Thursday, Iran announced a ban on Saudi imports and prohibited its citizens from joining pilgrimages to Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
That diplomatic rift has dampened hopes for a timely resolution to Yemen’s civil war, where Iran backs Houthi rebels who are seeking to reinstall former president Saleh. The Saudis support a coalition of forces loyal to Saleh’s recently ousted successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
While Riyadh views the Houthis as Iranian proxies working to expand Tehran’s influence, the rebels themselves insist that their sole aim is to liberate their nation from a corrupt government. According to The Independent, the civilian death toll has risen to nearly 2,800.
This post has been updated throughout.