Iran accuses Saudis of bombing embassy in latest escalation

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Iran on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia of staging a “deliberate” attack on its embassy in Yemen, the latest escalation of tensions between the two regional rivals.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, told the state-run IRIB News that the fighter jet attack is a “violation of all conventions and international regulations.”

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According to Iran, the bombing damaged the embassy and wounded security forces who were guarding it. 

Saudi officials appeared skeptical of the allegation but said they would launch an investigation.

The alleged attack on the diplomatic facility has not been verified by independent news outlets. Witnesses speaking to the BBC and New York Times said that the attack had occurred in the general area of the embassy but that the embassy itself was not hit. 

Nonetheless, the allegation is likely to heat up the bitter dispute that has roiled the broader Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia have squared off for years.

The current crisis was sparked last weekend when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric along with dozens of others on terrorism charges. In response, Iranians demonstrated at two Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran, storming the buildings and destroying property.

Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties with Iran, which is dominated by Shiites, over the spat. Regional Sunni allies including Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates joined in downgrading relations, to varying degrees. On Thursday, Iran barred the import of Saudi products and prohibited Iranians from making the Muslim pilgrimage to holy cities in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been embroiled in the civil war in Yemen, which many analysts have called a proxy war between the two nations. The Saudi government has come to the aide of the fledgling government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a Sunni, while Iran has supported the minority Houthi rebels, who are Shiite.

Both countries have also been at odds in Syria, where the ongoing chaos has allowed for the growth of extremists such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The rift threatens to upset the fragile negotiations aimed at halting the civil war in Syria.