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Riyadh, 05:40 a.m: It’s the first day of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It is a time of intense prayer and introspection for Saudis and more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.
A Houthi, Scud-type ballistic missile aimed at a military camp in Riyadh Province shatters the early morning peace and lands erringly in the Saudi capital, killing 34 people and injuring dozens more. It is unclear why Saudi missile defenses, supplied by the United States, fail to intercept the Burqan-2 missile.
Awake and at work since 4:30 that morning, Mohamad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler of the Kingdom (also known as MbS), hears the sound of the massive explosion, even though it was many kilometers from his office in the Ministry of Defense.
Like a cat on a hot tin roof, he’s thinking of worst-case scenarios, frantically moving from one room to another trying to process in his mind what might have just happened. Twelve minutes later, as he begins to receive information from his security services and the Governor of Riyadh, his worst fears materialize: Saudi Arabia has been attacked.
MbS has seen this movie before, in fact twice: A few months ago when the Houthis launched a missile at Riyadh’s international airport (the Saudis claimed that the missile didn’t hit its target because it was intercepted in air by a Patriot battery); and more recently when they reportedly lobbed seven missiles at Riyadh, killing one person and wounding several others. This time, however, there appears to be significant damage and multiple Saudi civilian casualties.
The attack has put Riyadh on high alert, causing the drums of war to pound in the entire Middle East.