The head of Al-Azhar, the top religious institution in Sunni Islam, slammed Yemen's Houthis on Saturday for allegedly firing a missile in the direction of Mecca.
Yemen's Houthi militia launched a missile into Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in the general direction of Mecca, according to a statement from the Saudi-led military coalition involved in the Yemen conflict.
Coalition forces destroyed the missile 65 km from Mecca and retaliated by bombing the alleged launch site inside Yemen, said the statement, carried on the Saudi Press Agency.
Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb denounced the alleged attack, saying the “stupid offense represents a major provocation to the feelings of more than 1.5 billion Muslims in various parts of the earth.”
“What happened is an insolent criminal act, a dangerous precedent, and a stark confrontation from those with sectarian agendas who seek to dominate the Arab world,” Tayeb said.
He called on all concerned parties in the Arab and Islamic worlds to take an urgent and decisive stance against the alleged rocket attack, which he said "exceeded all religious, moral and humanitarian limits."
Tayeb concluded his statement by warning: “I remind all those concerned, and officials around the world, that compromising and attacking these sacred sites threatens the world peace that we all desire and are working day and night to achieve and establish among all people.”
So far, there has been no official statement from the Houthi forces confirming that they fired a missile aimed at Mecca. There as also been no independent verification of the claims made by the Saudi-led coalition in its statement, including the claim that a missile was launched or that Mecca was its intended target.
Houthi forces in Yemen have been locked in an ongoing war with a Saudi-led coalition that has pounded Yemen for several years, killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes.
The coalition of Sunni Arab nations, including Egypt, has been harshly criticized for the high number of civilian deaths resulting from continued bombing of Yemen. The targets of Saudi bombs have included schools, hospitals and residential areas.
Most recently, in October, a Saudi-led airstrike hit a funeral gathering, killing over a 150 civilians and injuring over 500.
The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, have sent several rockets across the border into Saudi Arabia in retaliation at the coalition bombing campaign, insiting that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states should withdraw their forces from Yemen.
Egypt and several Gulf states have contributed military forces to the coalition in Yemen, operating alongside intelligence and special forces personnel provided by Western nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Mercenaries from Colombia and elsewhere have also been identified as fighting in support of the Saudi-led coalition.