Saudi Arabia deploys US-made Patriot missiles to protect Mecca from 'Iranian, Houthi' airstrikes
Saudi Arabia's military has deployed anti-aircraft missiles to protect Mecca during the hajj pilgrimage as the kingdom comes under drone and missile attacks from Yemen.
The Ministry of Defence earlier this week published an image on social media of the surface-to-air missile system parked outside the Islamic holy city, where some 2.5 million faithful have converged.
The ministry published another image of a soldier watching over the holy city through a pair of binoculars.
The images come as Riyadh has sought to reassure pilgrims that the holy sites are safe, deploying tens of thousands of security officers and military personnel.
During this year's hajj, the Saudi Islamic affairs minister accused the rebels and archrival Iran of wanting to demolish the Kaaba - the building considered to be Islam's holiest site.
"The Iranians and their henchmen in Yemen - the Houthis - are using the same method as Abraha," the minister said, referring to a pre-Islamic general who attempted to invade Mecca with an army that included elephants.
According to Islamic tradition, God intervened to protect the Kaaba with a swarm of birds carrying fiery rocks who destroyed the invader's army.
"They have sent dozens of planes and missiles towards Mecca… and none of them have hit their target," he added.
Yemen's Houthi rebels have stepped up missile and drone attacks across the border in recent weeks.
One civilian has been killed and dozens wounded in a series of attacks on Abha airport in the southeast of the kingdom.
In May, Saudi media accused the Iran-backed Houthis of launching ballistic missiles at the Mecca area – an attack strongly denied by the rebels.
Iran has repeatedly denied supplying the Houthis with drone or missile technology, both of which the rebels have increasingly used.
The kingdom has claimed that Iran supplied the missiles or at least helped the Houthis manufacture them from parts that were in Yemen before the war.
Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have hit schools, hospitals and weddings, killing thousands of civilians.